Team Swordfish won first place at the regional competition in April.
One lane of the Belle Terre Swim and Racquet Club pool turned into an obstacle course for a group of Matanzas High School seniors and their remote operating vehicle the morning on Sunday, May 19. The team is preparing for the 2019 SeaPerch Challenge, a national competition where over 200 teams will test their maneuverability and engineering skills as they control their ROV through an obstacle course and a mission course.
Team Swordfish students Cole Price, Davor Pavicic, Jacob Shoemaker and Patrick Argento and club sponsor Chris Braucher spent several hours at the pool that day practicing controlling the ROV — even when the propeller fell off and had to be reattached, and when the motor had to be replaced. Students James Day and Duncan Lacey are also apart of Team Swordfish, though they weren’t present for this practice.
With the national competition coming up June 1-2, Team Swordfish has been practicing two days after school and one day over the week for several hours to ensure they’re ready. To qualify for the SeaPerch Challenge, the team won first place in the regional competition in April.
Braucher said that Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University sponsored all of the SeaPerch materials for the national competition for all of Flagler County Schools. Flagler School Board member Colleen Conklin is the Executive Director of the Gaetz Aerospace Institute, and she made sure that any schools that wanted to participate in the SeaPerch competition had the necessary materials, he added.
“The competition itself is an awesome experience,” Braucher said. “Everybody that’s there is pretty willing just to share their ideas and designs with you.”
Price said that this year, the addition of a new class at MHS called Principles of Technology, taught by Braucher, helped him learn more skills that’ll help in competition, above and beyond the hands-on learning in the robotics club.
“The club helps with anything you’d want to do really,” Price said. “It teaches you skills like teamwork … and also communication. It really helps you to try and look outside the box. That’s the biggest thing.”
Price is currently enrolled at Daytona State College to be an automotive mechanic.
Shoemaker, the club’s main ROV driver, said he’s gotten better at maneuvering through the obstacle course over the last few years on the team.
Shoemaker said that the challenge course changes every year, but typically involves controlling the ROV to pick something up and put it on a platform, as well as going through hoops. He said this year’s mission course is a practical problem-solving situation, based on the cave-rescue mission from summer 2018 when a soccer team was trapped in a cave in Thailand.
“It is definitely something that gets you exposed to the field,” said Shoemaker, who is planning to study mechanical or civil engineering. “You get to learn a lot, so it is a good experience.”
Patrick Argento, the club president, said Team Swordfish earned first place at the regional competition the last three years, which is what qualified them to attend the national competition.
“This club has probably influenced me the most in that decision to pursue that field, because I love science, especially engineering,” said Argento, who plans to study mechanical engineering. “So, this club’s helped me a lot to fine tune and get practical experience.”
Davor Pavicic, who joined this team his sophomore year, said he and his teammates have worked to improve the design of the ROV each year without going over the $20 extra material limit, in the hopes of placing at the national competition.
Shoemaker said the team’s fastest time through the obstacle course was one minute and nine seconds, which is admirable. But the winners at the national competition have completed the course is 32 seconds, he said.
Still, the team is hopeful about the upcoming competition. And at the very least, they’re excited to meet other students and leaders in engineering and robotics fields.