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Liberty students in SeaPerch Robotics gain tech savvy and practical know-how

Ashton Bradley solders a circuit board as fellow seventh-grader A. J. Fredette inspects his work during robotics class at Liberty Middle School. (CONTRIBUTED)
Ashton Bradley solders a circuit board as fellow seventh-grader A. J. Fredette inspects his work during robotics class at Liberty Middle School. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON — With SeaPerch Robotics, Liberty Middle School students are gaining technical experience while gaining everyday, good-to-know practical skills.

Math teacher Tammy Fiscus is instructing the robotics class, a new elective for Madison middle-schoolers. ”

“SeaPerch Robotics is a wonderful program where the students work collaboratively to build, drive and modify an underwater, remotely operated vehicle (ROV),” Fiscus said. Currently, she is developing the classroom curriculum. “It’s a challenge.”

Fiscus is using YouTube videos by the Greater Philly SeaPerch that discuss the science behind the vehicle and building the robot. “After we finish the video series and building, we’ll test and modify the ROVs,” she said.

Other units will cover presentations, ocean exploration with robots and career paths. “We’ll will also work with Google Sketchup to create a three-dimensional computer model,” Fiscus said.

After studying robotics history, Fiscus’ class completed hands-on investigations. “We’re in the building phase so students are using PVC cutters to create frames and wax to waterproof and seal motors,” she said.

Karen Morgan, a trainer with Benchmark Electronics, visited to demonstrate basic soldering and building a circuit board. Students assembled control boxes with soldering irons. During this soldering session, students realized in-demand jobs. “Women can do it, too,” Fiscus said.

Their control pad resembles a Nintendo or X-Box controller and maneuvers the ROV. A 15-volt battery powers it. The wheel-less robot has propellers attached to motors.

They soon will test their finished products in a swimming pool using a CAT-5 tether cable.

Fiscus cited Dr. Robert Ballard’s “TED Talk” video that stated scientists and engineers are made by eighth grade. “How can we create them if we don’t give them the chance to try it out?” Fiscus said about the robotics elective.

Formerly, robotics was an after-school club. However, a class “exposes many more students to the world of engineering and robotics,” Fiscus said about the 50 Liberty students enrolled this school year.

Liberty students plan to compete in a regional meet, possibly in Chattanooga, in March 2015.

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