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2nd Annual Underwater Robotics Competition at Lake Superior State University

"It's so much fun because of all the amount of creativity the kids have put into it to show the fruits of their labor."

The 2nd annual U.P. MI STEM/Square One Underwater Innovative Vehicle Design (IVD) Challenge was held this past Wednesday, May 24 at Lake Superior State University's Norris Center pool.

An ice storm in the area back in early April postponed the event.

The Underwater IVD Challenge is the culminating competition for the Underwater Innovative Vehicle Design Program (Underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles, or ROVs). Student teams competed throughout the day in a variety of missions at the bottom of the pool. 

A handful of schools that consisted of 26 teams with over 100 students participated in the event.

Barb Land is the Executive Director of the Square One Education Network and was excited to be back in Sault Ste Marie for this competition.

"We are delighted to be here again for our second year partnering with Lake Superior State University. They have been very gracious hosts," Land said.

The event itself was much more than just the competition in the pool. The work started several months ago in the classrooms when the students and teachers from each school designed and built their respective ROVs.

"What we find to be the most beneficial components of this event are the students' communication skills, teamwork, critical thinking, and the ability to articulate and defend their ideas to their peers," Land continued.

Kevin St. Onge is the Eastern U.P. MI-Stem Region Director. Since last year's event, he noticed how the students have used better technology for the ROVs.

"You can see some new tactics they have integrated into their designs.  And after talking with the teachers, them having a year under their belt, and then being able to come in with that prior knowledge and experience, it's been great to see the program growing," St. Onge said.

Isabelle McCord, Sault Area Middle School 7th Grader really enjoyed the whole process from classroom to competition.

"Hands-on experiences are very fun because you get to do it your way and design it your way," McCord said.

Designing the ROV in the classroom is one thing, but competition day is another.

"Communication is important.  But it's hard sometimes because it's noisy. And there is some misunderstanding sometimes between the pilot, co-pilot and tether-man," added McCord.

Mike Kirschner, a Mechatronics/Technology teacher at Rudyard Public Schools, brought two teams down this year. A middle school and high school team.

"This is an amazing experience for these kids. They were a little nervous at first. It's so much fun because of all the amount of creativity the kids have put into it to show the fruits of their labor. It's awesome," said Kirschner.

The competition had a fair number of girls participating which is not surprising.

Olivia Obreiter, a 7th grader at Sault Area Middle School, was one of many young ambitious girls participating in the competition.

"I think it's great that girls can do engineering and have the opportunity to do it because it's a great profession to get into when you get older.  This has been a really great experience," Obreiter said.

"The girls are very meticulous. They see things that the guys don't. You need that collaboration between the boys and girls and be able to work together to compete," concluded Kirschner.

The competition ended around 4 p.m. with several trophies given out to the winners in certain categories.