The Washington Times-Herald

April 26, 2013

Diving for success

By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald

WASHINGTON — Throughout this school year, there has been a strange-looking machine at the Daviess County Family YMCA.

It’s pink, has a corkscrew nose, and it kind of resembles a squid. Like several of the swimmers at the pool Tuesday, it does laps. Those laps are through hoops and also it dives down to pick up rings.

The Washington High School SEAPERCH submarine may look odd to some, but it has won a state championship earlier this month.

And although there will not be a banner at the Hatchet House for their achievement, the WHS Engineering Club  team  and NJROTC will be competing for a national championship in Indianapolis next month.

“We started a bunch of new and exciting things and the students are embracing that,” WHS Project Lead the Way teacher and Engineering Club sponsor Jay Neuhoff said. “Just the new excitement of things happening is developing interest in the school and getting a lot of support.”

The SEAPERCH competition gives schools the opportunity to foster interest in science, technology, engineering and math through submarine design. It teaches students the concepts behind the machines.

NSA Crane engineers purchased kits for the engineering club and the WHS NJROTC cadet team. From there, the students took off, creating remotely operated submarines that have left the other schools’ crafts in their wake.

Teams are timed in two events, a five-hoop obstacle course of varying depths is the first event.

Submarines are timed on speed. The second event consists of picking up rings from an underwater rack. Besides the competition, students are also judged on their knowledge of the engineering concepts, like buoyancy and thrust.

The NJROTC team won the regional competition while the engineering club team won the state title at Southridge High School. The engineering club won the state in impressive fashion.  Both qualified for nationals.

“The obstacle course event, we were four seconds away from the national record of 47 seconds,” student Tim Webb said. 

And just maneuvering the craft is no small feat. It takes skill and a lot of practice. Neuhoff has an idea of what helps these students the most in this area.

“Video games,” he laughed. “Their hand-eye coordination is unbelievable.”

While the state title is nice, Neuhoff said the goal for the team has been nationals.

“We’re shooting for the win,” Neuhoff said.

Both teams have continued to work together, and will practice and tweaking their craft up until the national competition on May 17 and 18. The teams have practiced at the YMCA with the help and support of the staff.

“These kids are going to the nationals and that’s really cool,” NJROTC Capt. Neil May said. “They get to put their handiwork in the competition and it is hands-on stuff.”

Other students involved in the SEAPERCH project were: NJROTC Cadets Daniel San Agustin, Matthew Gaither, Shyanne Burch and Laura Rainey. On the engineering team, Cadets Andrew Kingsolver and Alexander Evans are teamed with Tim Webb and Ethan Clark.

Fundraising is currently under way for the trip to Indianapolis. Donations may be sent to the high school under “WHS Engineering Club.”