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By Rebekah Hall U of A System Division of Agriculture
March 9, 2023
(Newsrooms: With art at https://flic.kr/s/aHBqjAuMxR)
LITTLE ROCK — For Arkansas 4-H’ers, the SeaPerch Challenge is an opportunity to practice
their skills in STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — and work as a team
to solve problems.
On March 3, Arkansas 4-H members and students from across the state gathered at the
University of Arkansas at Little Rock for the 2023 SeaPerch Challenge. At the competition,
hosted by Arkansas 4-H and the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, junior high and
high school student teams steered remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, through two
underwater challenge courses. They also completed project workbooks and answered interview
questions from judges.
Sixty-one teams from 12 of Arkansas’ 75 counties competed, as well as two teams from
Grenada, Mississippi. The overall winning junior, senior and open teams will compete
at the International SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Maryland on May 13.
A list of all SeaPerch winners is available at 4h.uada.edu/programs/science/engineering-technology/seaperch.aspx.
Hope Bragg, extension instructor in 4-H youth development for the University of Arkansas
System Division of Agriculture, said the SeaPerch competition “continues to see record
growth” as the 4-H’ers’ engineering skills improve.
“Our 4-H youth amaze me with their skills in engineering as their robots become faster
and more agile underwater,” Bragg said. “As part of the 4-H STEM program, SeaPerch
allows our youth to broaden their experience with technology while realizing the real-world
application of ideas they have.”
The 4-H “learning by doing” philosophy provides youth with opportunities for hands-on
education in many subjects, including STEM. According to a 2018 study from the Pew
Research Center, STEM employment has grown 79 percent since 1990. The SeaPerch Challenge
incorporates basic engineering, design and science concepts, and it also challenges
students to be creative and collaborative with their teammates, Bragg said.
To construct their submersible robots, teams used more than three dozen parts, including
pieces of pool noodles, electrical tape, propellers, batteries, 12-volt motors and
PVC pipe. Each team selected two members to steer the robot through two challenge
courses. The “mission course,” designed to simulate space exploration, tested how
well the ROVs could pick up and move objects. On the obstacle course, competitors
navigated their robots through a series of plastic hoops floating at different angles.
Judges at each station evaluated teams’ performances and timed their progress through
the courses. Teams were also scored on their technical reports and engineering notebooks
for the project, which they submitted in advance. These notebooks contain documentation
of the engineering and building process for the ROV.
A panel of judges interviewed teams about their design process, goals for the competition
and each team member’s role in the robot’s construction. Judges rated teams based
on their organization and creativity, their engineering and design process and presentation
delivery during the interview.
Bragg said teams were encouraged to express their unique personalities by dressing
up for their presentations to judges.
“I saw 4-H’ers dressed as sea monsters, wearing scuba gear and donning hula skirts,”
Bragg said. “These kids made this year’s contest so much fun.”
Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of
Arkansas, said the organization has partnered with the Cooperative Extension Service
for decades in efforts to improve the quality of life for Arkansas.
“Working in partnership, the Cooperatives and Arkansas 4-H have increased SeaPerch
youth participation by more than 600 percent in five years,” Roedel said. “The SeaPerch
program provides an economically efficient STEM-based learning opportunity for students
and 4-H members. The program encourages problem-solving, teamwork, creativity, hands-on
learning and much more.
“These are skills that are critical in today’s workplace and must be learned, and
they can’t all be taught in a classroom,” he said.
For more information about the Arkansas 4-H SeaPerch Challenge, visit 4h.uada.edu. To learn more about the SeaPerch program, visit seaperch.org/about.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension
Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division
of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uada.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture,
visit https://uada.edu/. 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.
# # #
Media Contact: Rebekah Hall firstname.lastname@example.org @RKHall_ 501-671-2061