Hail to the tech titans of Clearwater
Clearwater Middle School students performed a hat-trick last weekend.
Their company, CW ROV Inc, won the top prize at the Mate Bermuda Regional Remotely Operated Vehicle Challenge for the third year running.
The annual event at the National Sports Centre saw 25 teams from 12 schools compete for the win.
“It ran much smoother than last year,” said McClaren Lowe, Clearwater’s Design and Technology teacher. “We felt that we were much more prepared.
“I’m very passionate about sharing technical education and what I believe it can do for students, how it can stretch them to whatever they can imagine.”
Five teams of his students were tasked with setting up a model company for the challenge, put on by Bios and
HSBC. They based this year’s entry on the navigator robot that won them top honours in 2016.
The win didn’t come without a few “malfunctions”; the most stressful when their “waterproof” motors proved not to be waterproof at all.
“What technical education like this brings to life for these students, it’s going to be long-lasting,” Mr Lowe said. “It could really lead our kids down avenues they never thought imaginable. Even though it’s fun, they’re absolutely learning theory and concepts from those Stem classes.
“The lightbulb goes off because they’re not learning abstractly. They’re now seeing the practical application for fractions, for buoyancy, for volume of a cylinder and how that relates to their ROV floating or sinking.”
He said the island should consider taking a comprehensive look at technical education.
“It really can change lives,” he said. “These young people are some of the top students at Clearwater, but I also have students who are not considered top or academic who come in here and flourish and excel.”
A.J. Smith, Quentin Vaucrosson, Ruth Mello-Cann and Ayr Cannonier were all part of the St David’s school’s win.
Twelve-year-old A.J. described Saturday morning’s competition as “pretty intense”.
“Once we put the ROV into the water, the whole thing started malfunctioning; the gripper and the arm wasn’t working,” he said.
“A set screw is a type of screw that when you put it in something, it stays in one place. Instead of staying in one place, it went all the way through and messed up the whole system. The arm couldn’t move and we couldn’t operate properly.”
He “hacked the thing”, with Mr Lowe’s help, by putting another set screw on the gear that controls the arm.
“We put a tiny little set screw in the gears of the gripper so that it wouldn’t move,” he said.
Building the arm was Ruth’s favourite part of the project.
“We kept the same frame design as one of our ROVs from last year, but improved it,” the 12-year-old said.
“We chose a vector design, that is when two motors are on a diagonal angle and they work together to move the ROV up, down, left and right.
“We also made an ROV that could have the orthogonal design, that’s when there are two motors going in two separate directions.”
It proved unnecessary but they kept the orthogonal system as a back-up. While the vector propulsion system gives more power and motor efficiency, it can lead to programming issues.
This year’s challenge was a first for Ayr.
“The biggest thing that I learnt was wiring the motors and wiring [servomechanisms] and rewiring control boxes,” the 11-year-old said.
“I like that we learn how to be independent when we’re building our ROVs. It allows us to do more designs than being restricted to one design.”
Quentin, 12, knew they had a firm chance at winning.
“We were unsure the first time, but in my head, I knew we could get it the second round,” he said.