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Middle and High School Students Compete with Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - The hard work paid off today for nearly a hundred students from all over the Panhandle. They put their robotic skills to the test at Gulf Coast State College.

By the looks of it, it could be a swim meet. But it wasn't the students in the pool, it was their remotely operated underwater vehicles. Friday was the regional SeaPerch challenge. Teams of two guide their robot through hoops and deep water in two obstacle courses.

"We started at the beginning of the year and have worked up until, well, yesterday," said Surfside Middle School 8th grader Lena Ottinger. 

The program is made possible by a grant from the Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. The grant provides the initial set up kit valued at about $100. The kids can then spend up to $20 on parts to enhance their robot. The Navy, Gulf Coast State College and Florida State have all partnered to supply the competition facility, volunteers, and judges. 

"This is great, you will see parents here cheering their kids on, you will see kids cheering each other on. It's just a wonderful atmosphere. Work hard, play hard, and reap the rewards which is a career in STEM we hope," said Bay District School Board Chair Ginger Littleton. 

That hope may become reality for Surfside Middle Schoolers Lena and Madison.

"A lot of my teammates and people I work with, like Madison are most likely going to be in the engineering field, and so this gives us a good head start on it!" said Ottinger. 

This is the third year of the SeaPerch program in Bay District Schools. The top three teams from today will head to nationals in Dartmouth Massachusetts in June.


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