Young marine salvage team takes high honors

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Should another barge ever dump containers of teddy bears and sneakers off Sakonnet Point (as happened years ago), salvors could turn to some budding Little Compton engineers to help locate the loot.

Members of the Little Compton Robotics Club recently proved adept at guiding a robot out onto the water where it retrieved rings from the depths.

On Sunday, Dec. 9, the club, led by Dr. David Segala, an engineer at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), competed at the 3rd Annual SeaPerch derby in New Bedford.

Little Compton club members made up five of the 20 teams at the competition. Ian Fitzgerald and Nina Wordell, comprising one team, took first place in the obstacle course, while the team of Malcolm Bowen and Julia Beauchemin took second place in the time trials, just missing first place by a tenth of a second.

Dr. Segala secured funds from the Little Compton Education Foundation to purchase the SeaPerch underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) kits along with all the tools necessary for the students to build their robot.

Those tools ranged from vises and drills to soldering irons and ohmmeters. The ohmmeters were used to the check the current and resistance in the motors  and controller circuit. This was necessary to make sure there were no loose connections or solder bridges in the controller circuit board.

The students were able to practice driving their SeaPerch ROVs in a pool to practice for the competition. In addition to the standard SeaPerch kit, the students had to design, develop, and fasten an apparatus to the front of the ROV to retrieve rings at the bottom of the pool.

The robotics club started nine weeks ago at Wilbur McMahon School for students in 6th to 8th grade and teachers of all grade levels.

Dr. Segala accompanied the robot building with lectures on topics that included buoyancy, thrust, electricity, electronics, and underwater vehicle design.

Guest visitors included William Ferreira (ret. USN) who was the deputy department head of the Submarine Combat Systems Department at NUWC, and Sea Vision Marine president Jeff Synder who both provided real worldexperiences and lessons to the students.

Dr. Segala will be holding another robotics club in the spring where students will be building the SeaPerch ROV again. Due to the success of the club, Dr. Segala is in the process of trying to put together an advanced robotics club for the fall 2013 academic year.

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