- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

EVERETT, Wash. (AP) - Students at Archbishop Murphy High School are taking a hands-on approach to scientific exploration. They’re launching rockets into the air and probing underwater with robots.

Though these freshmen aren’t yet allowed get behind the wheel of a car, they’ve built remotely operated vehicles that can cruise down to about 40 feet below the water’s surface.

Their science teacher, Tom Wier, came up with the school’s first-ever underwater robot project. Students designed, built and tested four different remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs.

“It’s engineering at its core,” Wier said. “I wanted everybody to have a concrete object that they cared about to start learning physics.”

Students taking freshman science from Wier worked together to complete one robot in each of the four classes. They came up with a different design for each vehicle.

“It was really fun,” said Kaylah Hogle, a designer in one of the classes.

The students built the frame by cutting up about 10 feet of PVC pipe. They used connectors to put the pieces together.

Hogle is on the school’s robotics team. She said the tools the class used worked more effectively than those in her competitive experience.

The underwater robots are simplified versions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s advanced ROV, known as Hercules, Wier said.

“Ours is basically a mini-version,” said Mitchell Lovell, a student on the motor team.

Students installed three motors in their ROV. One provides vertical movement, while the other two power the robot as it travels side-to-side. Air-filled buoyancy chambers were added to help it float.

Students also installed a camera so they could see to drive. They wired a control box to operate the vehicle from dry land.

They used a tub of water to troubleshoot their vehicles in the classroom.

Once completed, students took their vehicles to a pool for testing. They threw toys, such as Barbie dolls, into the water and chased the objects with the robots.

“It was pretty fun,” Lovell said. “I learned that making a homemade ROV is easier with the right tools.”

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