UACES Facebook Arkansas 4-H teams compete at International SeaPerch Challenge in Maryland
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June 24, 2022

Arkansas 4-H teams compete at International SeaPerch Challenge in Maryland

By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture 

Fast Facts:

  • Arkansas 4-H teams from Grant, Madison and Washington counties competed
  • 4-H members met international students, including teams from New Zealand, China and Egypt
  • Teams improved engineering skills, practiced teamwork

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. — As the field of robotics continues to develop, its role in space exploration and deep-sea research has become critical to the future of science and discovery. Three Arkansas 4-H teams recently took their robotics knowledge to the next level at the 2022 International SeaPerch Challenge in College Park, Maryland, where they competed with students from across the country and around the world.

RETURNING CHAMPS — Madison County 4-H team Trumpinator finished in 16th place on the obstacle course and 14th place on the mission course within the high school division, placing 18th overall at the International SeaPerch Challenge in College Park, Maryland. Pictured are team coach Darrin Henderson and team members Colton Edwards, Levi Henderson and Trevor Edwards. (Photo courtesy of Darrin Henderson.) 

The Grant County 4-H Wave Shockers from Sheridan, the Madison County 4-H Trumpinator team from Huntsville, and the Washington County 4-H BZBot 2 team from Fayetteville attended the international competition on June 4. They were the winning junior, senior and open teams from the qualifying Arkansas SeaPerch Challenge held in Bryant on April 11.

For the international competition, teams steered their remotely operated vehicles through two underwater challenge courses and were also judged on their engineering design report and a video presentation. The Arkansas 4-H teams competed with students from throughout the United States as well as teams from New Zealand, Qatar, China, Puerto Rico, Kuwait, Egypt and India.

The Wave Shockers – Jaxson Andrews, Luke Douthit, Kaylynn Cogbill and Hannah Nash – finished in 8th place on the obstacle course and 15th place in the mission course within the middle school division. The team was coached by Serena McGinley, a 4-H leader and Sheridan Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher, and Brad McGinley, Grant County extension agent.

Both coaches said the competition helped their students have experiences they “wouldn’t otherwise get.”

“They were able to compete at a level that was very challenging,” Serena McGinley said. “They were able to see different builds, and this got them excited for next year’s SeaPerch season. I also feel like they gained pride in themselves for being part of an elite group. This confidence booster is a game changer for my students.”

In addition to providing opportunities for students interested in engineering and mechanics to learn and practice new skills, the SeaPerch Challenge was an exercise in working together.

“The teamwork that goes into each project is a benefit that far outweighs any ribbon or trophy,” Serena McGinley said.

“This team was a picture of teamwork,” Brad McGinley added. “At the beginning of the season, this team did not have the best or fastest Remotely Operated Vehicle, but they worked together very well. They didn’t fuss or fight among themselves. Once a decision was made, they all got on board, and that teamwork paid off.”

He said the challenge also teaches students “real life skills,” including soldering and cutting PVC pipe, and “what tools to use for what purpose,” such as the difference between a flat head and Philips head screwdriver.

“Another aspect of this project that is so beneficial is the critical thinking skills the students gain,” he said. “Just like in real world engineering, details matter in a project like this. One small minor adjustment or mistake can make a huge difference in the way your ROV performs.”

The students said they enjoyed working together and learning how to use new tools to build their ROVs.

“If something is wrong or messed up, you have to count on your team to fix it and problem solve to get back to what it was,” Hannah Nash, 11, said.

Luke Douthit, 11, said he learned to “not be afraid to go for it” during the competition.

“I learned to not give up,” Douthit said. “If you mess up, do something different and try again.”

Jaxson Andrews, 11, said he enjoyed “building new friendships” and studying other robot designs at the competition.

“I learned that robots come in all different shapes and sizes, and even though our team almost never argued, we still learned to work together,” Andrews said.

The Trumpinators from Huntsville – Levi Henderson, Colton Edwards and Trevor Edwards – finished in 16th place on the obstacle course and 14th place on the mission course within the high school division, placing 18th overall. The team’s coach, Darrin Henderson, Madison County extension staff chair, said the international competition helped show his students how connected they are to their peers around the globe.

“This opportunity to meet other youth involved in the same types of projects and activities really showed our team members how much they were the same as other youth their age from anywhere else in the world,” Henderson said. “They realized they are really not that different at all. The social interactions with all the different youth really left an impression on our team members, and it made them realize that through education and technology, the world really isn’t that big anymore.”

Henderson’s students said they enjoyed meeting kids from other countries, exploring the University of Maryland campus, and getting to compete at a higher level.

“I learned that as long as you’re prepared and feel ready to compete or complete the task, there is no need to worry about how it will turn out,” said Levi Henderson, 15. “I felt that we worked pretty good as a team. Everyone has their own jobs to perform, and this contest just reinforced those feelings.”

Colton Edwards, 16, said he was “really nervous” as the driver on the mission course, but “things ended up turning out pretty good in the end.”

“I learned that there are times when you need to just slow down and take a couple moments to gather yourself, and then you can move ahead with a challenging task,” he said.

The BZBot 2 team from Fayetteville – Ash Wood and Ryuji Adhryan – finished in 7th place in both the mission course and obstacle course within the open division, placing 11th overall. Len Wood, the team’s coach, said he watched his students’ confidence “grow tremendously after the competition.”

“They went from thinking, ‘This is a chance of a lifetime to compete in the international event’ before we competed, to chain firring ideas on what they need to do to win next year,” Wood said. “They saw lots of other teams’ robots, which gave them ideas to build upon for next year. The favorite skill they gained was soldering.”

Wood also said the SeaPerch challenge helps “broaden current 4-Hers experiences” and helps bring in new 4-H participants.

Ash Wood, 16, said he enjoyed the “problem-solving aspect” of designing the robot.

“SeaPerch has taught me how to think on the spot through the various questions we were asked,” Wood said. “I also learned multiple engineering skills to maximize the hydrodynamics of the robot.”

Ryuji Adhryan, 14, said he enjoyed the “excitement and adrenaline rush” of competing in the event. He also said it helped improve his problem-solving skills.

“We would normally run into a problem, which we would then have to fix, and even after fixing the problem, we would run into a new one,” Adhryan said. “Because of this, I have learned a lot about the SeaPerch program and my engineering skills.”

For more information about the Arkansas 4-H SeaPerch Challenge, visit To learn more about the SeaPerch program, visit

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.


About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.  

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact:
Rebekah Hall