ence, which was held in March in San Francisco with
10,000 attendees, and works with organizations such as
the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers to
conduct STEM-based outreach programs like the
SeaPerch underwater robot, based on the book “Build
Your Own Underwater Robot and Other Wet Projects”
by Harry Bohm and Vickie Jensen and developed by the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2003.
A Department of Defense (DoD) program that was
adopted by the Navy in 1994, Starbase-Atlantis has
served youth in promoting STEM while also providing
goal-setting and teamwork skills. The program recently
graduated its 100,000th student Feb. 8 at the Starbase
academy at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Managed
by the Community Service and Outreach Office at Naval
Education and Training Command, the curriculum
includes astronomy, mathematics, fluid mechanics,
aerodynamics, rocketry and the physics of flight.
Today, there are more than 60 DoD-funded Starbase
programs run by the four armed services throughout
the United States and Puerto Rico. Participants build
and fly their own model rockets and are involved in a
number of STEM activities, including using computer
SeaPerch, an educational outreach program of the
Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers that
is supported by ONR, is a remote-controlled underwater robot that students build and operate themselves.
It is made from kits comprising common materials
such as PVC pipe, DC motors, propellers, wires and
While the kids like playing with their robots,
SeaPerch is not a toy. It serves as a teaching tool to convey principles such as buoyancy, stability, electricity,
and electrical and mechanical engineering. Moreover,
it becomes a learning aid for problem solving.
When students put their robots in the water and
they do not work, there are valuable teaching moments
to find and correct the problem. Eventually, students
can customize them to go faster, maneuver through an
obstacle course, or move or retrieve objects. Or just to
SeaPerch has taken off from just 500 students three
years ago to more than 20,000 this year. It has proven
to be valuable for in-school curriculums, after-school
clubs and summer camp programs — from grade
school to grad school.
SeaPerch is an integral part of the curriculum for Prince
William County Public Schools in Northern Virginia.
“All of our high schools run this program embedded
in a course called Technology Foundations,” said
David Eshelman, the supervisor for Career and
Lt. j.g. George Dabney, assigned to the Office of Naval Research Science and Technology Reserve Component, assists
patrons with the operation of SeaPerch during Fleet Week
New York City 2010. SeaPerch provides students with the
opportunity to learn about robotics, engineering, science and
mathematics while building an underwater remotely operated
vehicle as part of a science and engineering curriculum.
Technical Education (CTE) in Prince William County.
“It’s also offered as a specialty program in our alterna-
The schools work with industry to involve engineers
with students. Denyse Carroll, the Regional STEM CTE
Education Coordinator with SPARK, the Education
Foundation for Prince William County Public Schools,
said Northern Virginia has a very large concentration of
defense, telecommunication and other high-tech indus-
tries. “We want to encourage businesses to participate in
these opportunities. We can’t survive as a school divi-
sion without our business partners.”
Teachers and coaches take an intensive one-day
workshop on how to build and use SeaPerch. Andrea
Bechberger, a Prince William CTE specialist, said staff
development is an important part of the process.
“We’re turning shop teachers into tech education
teachers. We have to educate the educators. The longer
we do SeaPerch, the more we think about new ways to
use it,” she said.
The SeaPerch remotely operated vehicle also is an
integral part of the curriculum in Alaska and Hawaii.
Working with ONR, the Juneau Economic Development
Council provides SeaPerch teacher training in Anchorage
and Juneau for educators throughout Alaska.
Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock,
Md., engineers go out into Maryland’s Montgomery
County schools and work one on one with the students
on a variety of STEM initiatives, including SeaPerch.