A new program that emphasizes the importance of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) is a hit with students at Saucon Valley Middle School, thanks to a partnership between the school and local companies and organizations that have contributed the money needed to fully fund it.
SeaPerch is an underwater robotics program developed by MIT and the U.S. Office of Naval Research that equips teachers and students with the resources to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), either in-school or out-of-school.
Students work in teams to build an ROV from a kit, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme.
Saucon Valley parent and Victaulic vice president Eric Luftig helped spearhead its introduction at the middle school late last year, where he said 30 students quickly signed up for the inaugural program. Victaulic is a producer of mechanical pipe joining solutions headquartered near Easton.
Some of those students–Team ChiBot, which is made up of seventh and eighth-graders Shanti Sajnani, Sofia DeMotte, Sonia Lloyd, Emily Chi and Claire Phillips–will compete in the Greater Philadelphia 2018 SeaPerch competition at Temple University Friday.
During the competition–which all of the SeaPerch members will travel to–Team ChiBot will use their ROV in three separate missions: navigating an underwater obstacle course, picking up and placing PVC pipes in a grid and sliding objects along PVC pipes.
Luftig said the number of girls who have participated in SeaPerch–including the members of Team ChiBot–is impressive, and a positive sign, since traditionally women have not pursued careers in STEM fields to the same degree that men do.
That’s another reason why Victaulic was committed to financially supporting SeaPerch at Saucon Valley.
“We’re a manufacturing company but we’re also an innovation company,” Victaulic Corporate Communications Lead Andrea Coyne said. “We need to be thinking of the next generation of talent.”
Coyne added that the company would like to think that some of the students now participating in SeaPerch might one day pursue careers at a company like Victaulic.
Ultimately seven other companies also agreed to help fund or provide in-kind donations for the course: Demco Automation, Barry Isett & Associates, FirstGeneration, Capital Blue, St. Luke’s University Health Network, J&J Luxury Transportation and ASR Media.
ASR Media, which recently opened offices in Hellertown, is producing a video about the SeaPerch program at Saucon that will air on The Peak TV on Channel 69 in April.
“The SeaPerch program has been warmly received by our students, parents and faculty,” middle school principal Ken Napaver said. “We are proud to offer this great STEM opportunity…and hope to continue to sustain it for years to come, engaging our students in critical thinking, hands-on technology and important life skills, including working with others and taking on new challenges.”
Napaver noted that he used SeaPerch while he was employed at another district. He said he helped forge the partnership with Luftig and Victaulic because he actively wants to develop new oppportunities for Saucon Valley students, with support from local businesses and organizations.
“You have to start looking at people being able to donate,” he said. “Many schools are now doing that.”
If your business or organization would like to be a part of this or a future initiative, please contact Napaver or the Saucon Valley School District.
Photos by Keith Riefenstahl