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CCNY Hosts First Navy Aquatic Robotics Competition in NYC

A SeaPerch underwater robot built by students from Pennington School in Pennington, NJ.

New York, New Jersey Students to Vie in SeaPerch Challenge Saturday, March 23

Student teams from more than 20 schools in New York City, Long Island and New Jersey will delay spring break to converge at The City College of New York Saturday, March 23, for an underwater robotics competition – the first ever of its kind in the Northeast. 

Some 100 middle and high school students will compete in The First Annual Greater New York SeaPerch Challenge, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., in CCNY's Mahoney Pool. The event is part of a U.S. Navy program to encourage youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics [STEM] fields. The Navy, its Office of Naval Research and the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Foundation are co-sponsors of the event.  

The young participants will match the performance of aquatic robots they've built on an underwater obstacle course and in an underwater salvage operation. The students will also be required to make oral presentations to demonstrate their mastery of science and engineering principles.

U.S. Naval engineers, and engineering majors from The City College and the State University of New York Maritime College's NROTC program will judge the students. The winners will advance to the National SeaPerch Challenge in Indianapolis, May 18.

New York State Assembly Member Linda B. Rosenthal, who represents District 67 and is chair of the New York State Commission on Science and Technology, will be the keynote speaker at the closing ceremony.

Dr. Andre Ragnauth, assistant medical professor in CCNY's Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education and a U.S. Army veteran, was instrumental in bringing the SeaPerch Challenge to City College. He said the event and CCNY were a perfect match because of the latter's strong STEM programs.

"It's significant that City College is hosting the first ever underwater robotics competition because we strongly believe in the Navy's mission to encourage interest in STEM disciplines among young students. It is my hope we'll be able to turn this into an annual event," he said.  

"We have the best Navy in the world because we have the best people in the world," said Lt. Cmdr. Michael Fourte, U.S. Navy City Outreach Officer for the Northeast Region. He noted that since the start of the school year, hundreds of students across New York and New Jersey had been "sawing, drilling, screwing, soldering and wiring" to construct "SeaPerch" underwater robots.

"Not every student who builds an underwater robot will become a naval officer, but if they are encouraged to pursue a career in STEM, and they do it here in the United States, our nation will benefit," he said, adding: "Programs like this not only build relationships with schools, but they are also vital to our continued national security."

Commander Fourte said combat engineers from the Navy's Mobile Construction Battalion built the SeaPerch Challenge's obstacle course, while Navy SEALs in Little Creek, Va., had been mobilized to assist with the underwater portion of the event.  
In addition to the participants, Commander Fourte expects more than 250 students, parents, teachers and principals to attend the Challenge. 

"At halftime, spectators will be entertained by the precision and coordination of the Silver Dolphins Silent Drill team from the Navy's submarine base in Groton, Conn.," he said. "Spectators will not miss the exciting up-close underwater drama because it will be brought to them live on screen with the aid of a remotely operated underwater camera supplied by the VideoRay Corporation."

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Jay Mwamba
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