Students Dive into Learning
Experts from PSNS & IMF and Keyport help students navigate lessons in grit
Posted on 02/28/2020

On a winter afternoon, Central Kitsap fifth graders carried Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) into the Olympic High pool. A few of the ROVs — built with PVC pipes, wires and hobby motors — were already busted. Other creations didn’t show problems until they hit the water.

Thankfully, bins of spare parts and tools lined a wall. More importantly, patient mentors from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Intermediate Maintenance Facility and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Keyport were there to help just as they have year after year. For more than a decade, the ROV program has matched students and teachers work with local experts from PSNS & IMF and Keyport. Students design, build, and navigate their ROVs through a series of challenges at the pool.

Thousands of Kitsap students have participated — 843 in CK Schools last school year alone.

The hands-on nature of the program lends to its longevity, said PSNS & IMF STEM Coordinator Corinne Beach. “I think sometimes concepts like neutral buoyancy are hard to visualize when you read it in a book,” said Beach.

Many CK students connect with it because their parents work with or in submarines, said Jeff Friers, K-8 STEM specialist for CK Schools.
Students work with mentor Mark Davis on an ROV.

“Throughout the process, students learn soft skills (teamwork, persistence, communication) as well as technical skills, how to use certain tools, troubleshooting a problem, and the ability to be innovative,” said Beach.

And students learn to fail without too much on the line. “FAIL: First Attempt In Learning,” Friers said. “That’s the whole idea of learning the engineering design process: analyzing what you have and improving. It’s effective at letting students show perseverance.”

Back at the pool, all the fifth graders had fix-it stories, including Silver Ridge students Ernesto and Lilly. They had to reposition their thrusters; they kept their tether too short in the first race. But setbacks didn’t frustrate them. “I’ve never actually done anything like this, so I thought it was fun,” Ernesto said.

When the pool challenges were completed, Beach addressed the students in the bleachers. She asked them to raise their hands if their ROVs worked perfectly the first time in all the challenges. A few hands went up.

She tilted her head. “Really?” The hands went down. In real life, projects are rarely perfect the first time around, she reminded them.

Student Ernesto knew that well. “We continued to find our problems and fix it.”