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PBJHS Wins the Battle of the Underwater Robots

Gifted students at Poplar Bluff Junior High School won their first ever regional underwater robot competition by employing Albert Einstein’s theory of keeping it simple.

“We used Einstein’s philosophy that: ‘Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler,’” said eighth grader Dylan Wells, one of six members of team Mulus Aquaticus, water mules in Latin.

The students placed first out of about 10 intermediate schools in the scout division of the fourth annual remotely operated vehicle competition of the Northern Gulf from April 22-24 at Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Mobile, Ala. The event was sponsored by the international Marine Advanced Technology Education program.

Out of a possible 340 points, Mulus Aquaticus scored 248, 75 points ahead of the second place team, according to SINGS instructor Tom Allen (serving the individual needs of gifted students), who introduced the ROVs to the curriculum several years ago.

“Pilot Connor Becker ran a perfect course in the afternoon trials, something that, according to officials I talked to, rarely happens,” Allen reported. “Our team score actually was higher than all scores in all levels of the competition.”

To prepare, the team had been meeting after school weekly since December assembling their ROV under general parameters provided. While some of the competitors brought in devices with eight motors and hydraulics, Mulus Aquaticus’ ROV was fabricated out of PVC piping, two prongs, three motors, a three-button joystick for navigation and a camera.

The contest consisted of four missions, one of which was to collect oil samples from the pool to test the chromatography. The scenario given was that NASA lost a CubeSap and the oceanographers were charged with bringing the miniaturized satellite to the surface.

Mulus Aquaticus only needed 8 minutes and 30 seconds out of a total of 10 minutes to complete the challenge, receiving bonus points for landing the best time of the day. While the wisdom behind their underwater robot prevailed, the students still feel some points were left on the table, they said.

“Winning is great, but the biggest thing here is that self-reflection,” PBJHS Principal Bob Case stated. “When kids start reflecting, that means they are outcome-driven and the educational barrier has been broken. They’re on their own at that point. All a teacher needs to do is facilitate the learning process.”

(Standing from left) Tom Allen, Bethany Jenson, Tanner Robinson, J. Michael Greenwall and Tommy Holland; (kneeling) Connor Becker and Dylan Wells.

(Standing from left) Tom Allen, Bethany Jenson, Tanner Robinson, J. Michael Greenwall and Tommy Holland; (kneeling) Connor Becker and Dylan Wells.