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Westwood students compete in SeaPerzch nationals

Cheney Free Press of Cheney, Washington

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Westwood Middle School students Collin Novo and Carter Lefler of Aqua Troopers finished 57th out of 92 middle schools that competed at the 2016 National SeaPerch Challenge at Louisiana State University (LSU) in Baton Rouge Louisiana in May.

Lefler and Novo, the first two Westwood students, to compete at a national SeaPerch competition, finished with a score of 170. In individual events, the Aqua Troopers scored 74 points on the challenge event, 64 on the obstacle course and 32 on the poster.

According to its website, SeaPerch is a program that equips teachers and students with resources to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle — ROV. Students build the ROV from a kit comprised of low-cost, easily accessible parts and follow a curriculum that teaches engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.

Lefler and Novo qualified for the national competition after winning the sixth annual Inland Northwest SeaPerch Challenge at the Eastern Washington University pool, Feb. 27. The team's registration fees were paid by the school district. "It was a positive experience for them"

Westwood SeaPerch coach Karen Runyon said, referring to Novo's and Letter's time at the national competition.

For the challenge event, Novo and Lefler scored points by having their ROV transport whiffle balls into a submerged or floating area. For the obstacle course, the team had to successfully maneuver their vehicle through a series of rings in different positions.

Prior to the national competition, Runyon said the team attached a removable net to the ROV to help them transport the balls for the challenge event. When they arrived at nationals, officials informed them they had to keep the net on their ROV for both events. This would have made it difficult for the vehicle to maneuver through the rings, which Runyon said were 18 inches in diameter-a change form last year's competition.

"The students came up with the idea to collapse the net and shortened the PVC pipes," Runyon said. "Our ROV worked great, nothing broke."

Teams also had to present a poster where they documented "the process of building their ROV and shared the problems and solutions they came across leading up to the competition.

Runyon said Novo and Lefler had the opportunity to meet teams from across the United States, Australian and New Zealand, as well as learn different designs and modifications they could make to their ROVs.

"Some of the teams that won the competition have more access to pools so they can practice," Runyon said.

As for next year, Runyon said the SeaPerch club is trying to find different ways of letting high school students, who were previously involved with the club, to come back and help the new team members. The teams will also work on different strategies and purchase more components.

Runyon said she would also like to hold a practice competition between the Cheney Middle School and Westwood teams.

"Most of the kids who enter the competitions are driving the ROVs in the pool for the first time," Runyon said. "That's something I am going to look into next year."

Al Stover can be reached at

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Original Publication Date: June 16, 2016

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