• SeaPerch Challenges - Day 2

    Posted by Vickie Blanchet on 6/3/2018


    Our second day began with the Obstacle Course Challenge first thing in the morning.  Each student had to navigate the SeaPerch through a set of six rings placed at different angles and directions for entry while their partner belayed the tether cord.  At the end, the ROV had to surface before retracing its path through the rings and back to the side of the pool.  Jeremy went first and, unfortunately, the ROV got hung up on one of the rings.  Frankie followed, earning the faster time of 2 minutes 19.28 seconds.  It was difficult to take a clear video of the events as the lane dividers were often in the way of seeing the ROV.  However, here is Jeremy's Obstacle Course Run and here is Frankie's Obstacle Course Run.

    While waiting for the results, we spent the afternoon working on STEM Challenges and exploring cool tech.  We started with creating fins for a SeaGlider.  An programmable ROV that is the next level of challenge from RoboNation.


     SeaGlide 2

    Next, we checked out a marine engineering program called FLEET, developed by the American Society of Naval Engineers.  We got to build a ship, figure out how to ballast it properly, and attempt several rescue missions.


    After creating a mechanical claw, we enjoyed playing in an Augmented Reality Sandbox.  Using a combination of sand and technology, we created topographical landscapes and explored how water moves in various land formations.

      Sandbox 2  

     Sandbox 3

    Florida before the Hurricane!

     Unfortunately, we didn't get to stay for the Award Ceremony as we had to catch a plane home.  We did, however, find out our standings.

    • Challenge Course:  22nd Place
    • Obstacle Course:  62nd Place
    • Engineering Notebook:  9th Place

    Overall, we placed 26th out of 81 teams.

    We are thrilled to have improved substantially from our last showing, to have learned a lot, and to have a ton of ideas for next year.  We can't wait to start the process all over again ~ That's what Engineering is All About!!!

    Thank you to the many friends and family members who supported us this year.

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  • SeaPerch Challenges - Day 1

    Posted by Vickie Blanchet on 6/2/2018


    The day started with their engineering presentation to a panel of judges.  After giving their prepared presentation, they answered questions about their ROV such as "How did the balloon affect the speed of the ROV?"   They were very impressed with the variable buoyancy system and had never seen that idea before.



    With Jeremy at the controls and Frankie belaying the tether, their team earned 22 out of 23 points by moving all nine objects from the origin platform to the scoring platform in a time of 6 minutes and 31 seconds.  Unfortunately, Vickie had the camera ready to go at their designated lane (#12).  She didn't realize that the team had been moved to the other end of the pool and the challenge had been started until she glanced to the left and saw Jeremy's hoodie at the far end of the pool.

    Here is the last 1½ minutes of their run:  SeaPerch Challenge Video



    In between events, Jeremy and Frankie used a non-shadow method to measure the height of Campanile Tower in the middle of the Quad here at the University of Massachusetts - Dartmouth.  They created an isoceles triangle out of a square and used it as a clinometer, finding the point where the top of the tower aligned with the hypotunese of the triangle.  Then, they measured the length back to the base of the tower.  Realizing that their measurement was one leg of the triangle and that the other leg would be the same length, they added their height to the total and added an additional 1½ feet to account for the slope of the land.  Their final estimate was 283' 3".  We have to wait until tomorrow to find out the actual height.

    Bucket Tower

    Another STEM Challenge undertaken by Frankie and Jeremy was to build a tower that could support the weight of a bucket filled with pennies.  They quickly constructed a square pyramid shape and added a bucket.  Then, they added another bucket.  And another.  And Another.  The tower finally failed at 4½ buckets full of pennies.  Great job, guys!

    Bucket Tower 2

     Jeremy spent the last part of his afternoon constructing a giant balloon for the Tissue Paper Balloon Challenge.  Tomorrow, it will be filled with hot air and we'll see how high it flies.


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  • Freedom Trail Tour

    Posted by Vickie Blanchet on 6/1/2018

    On Friday morning, we walked the Freedom Trail, visiting twelve historical sites and learning about Boston's role in the American Revolution.  The tour began on the Boston Common, the site of the first public park in the New World.  The land being held "in common" was a place for people to graze animals, meet together, and punish wrongdoers, including witches who were hung from a huge elm tree that used to be situated on the present day location of a lovely children's playground.  Our tour guide was the lovely Lydia Millikin and she hated Paul Revere, for reasons that will be shared later.


    We visited the Granary Burying Grounds. where we learned why cemetaries were so small, even though so many people died.  Corpses were stacked one on top of each other rather than being laid out side-by-side.  Buried at the Granary are three famous Americans:  Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and Paul Revere.  Samuel Adams was the political agitator of the revolution.  If a story could be spun in favor of the colonists and against the King (FIE!), then he figured out how to do it.  Samuel Adams was a forward thinker for his time, abhoring slavery and truely believing that "All men are created equal."  Buried in his family plot are the victims of the Boston Massacre, who include a native American, a black man, and immigrants from Ireland and Germany.

        Victims       Samuel Adams

    Just feet from Samuel Adams own plot are the victims of the Boston Massacre.


    Another famous American buried at the Granary is John Hancock, a man with gorgeous hair and lots of money.  He was a financer of the American Revolution.

    John Hancock

    Check out the hair!

    The community organizer of the revolution, always ready to do whatever needs doing, Paul Revere lies resting at the Granary as well.  A silversmith by trade and made famous by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere," he is most famous for alerting the militia at Lexington that the British army was coming to relieve them of all their guns.  Also dispatched by the Sons of Liberty, William Dawes rode with the same message along a different route.  Both were joined by Dr. Samuel Prescott, a resident of Concord, who was returning home after a visit to Lexington.  Paul Revere was captured by the British and William Dawes was injured when he was thrown by his horse.  Since only Dr. Samuel Prescott was able to ride to Concord and rouse the populace to arms, it's no wonder that his finance, Lydia Mullikan, is upset that Paul Revere gets all the credit.  She's also upset that Paul's handsome face was actually substituted for Samuel Adams' ugly mug on pints of Sam Adams Ale.

    Paul 1      Paul 2

    Despite history's inflated view, Paul Revere was a humble man.  On the right is his original tombstone.  The momument on the left was erected by the city to commerate his role in the American Revolution.

    Although he was a native of Boston, Ben Franklin left the city when he was sixteen.  He settled in Philadelphia and never looked back.  His early years were spent at the Latin Grammar School in Boston. A school open to everyone, as long as you were male and white and from a rich enough family.  Bostonians still claim good ole Ben as one of their own.


    One of the last stops on the tour was the site of the Boston Massacre.  In front of the Colonial Governor's mansion is a brick circle indicating that this was the site of the Boston Massacre, but it isn't.  The massacre actually happened in the middle of what is now a very busy intersection.  The City of Boston decided that having tourists blocking traffic and getting run over by cars probably wouldn't be good for business and they wisely moved the site out of the road.  It is decidedly a "Spin Zone" with Samuel Adams inciting the fractuous and possible drunken Bostonians to riot.  With Samuel Adams firmly in charge of the script, the British never had a chance!

    Boston Massacre Site

    Our tour ended at Faneuil Hall, sometimes known as the Cradle of Liberty, being the site from which many inflamatory speeches were made by Samuel Adams, James Otis and others.  The dome is 23K gold. 

    Faneuil Hall


    Our tour guide had us laughing a lot as we explored part of Boston's history and the birth of our country.  If not for the lack of parking, the steep climb, and the muggy weather, we would have also gone to Bunker Hill.  But that is for another day!


    Of course, no tour on National Donut Day would be complete without a stop at Dunkin Donuts to get a Boston Kreme to eat in Boston!


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  • Harvard Astrophysics Lab

    Posted by Vickie Blanchet on 5/31/2018

    As part of their trip to the 2018 International SeaPerch Competition in Massachusetts, Frankie Chambers and Jeremy Ward visited the Harvard Smithsonian Astrophysics Lab at Harvard University in Cambridge.

    First, they learned about the history of astrophotography through touring the Plate Stacks, over 500,00 glass plates made of the many objects in the sky over a hundred year period. 

    3,000 Glass Plates

    Cupboard with 3,000 Glass Plate Pictures of Celestial Objects

    Flyspankers      Frame

    Flyspankers were used to determine the brightness of Stars                                              and Frame for holding Glass Plates prior to the days of light boxes


    Machine to digitize glass plate pictures

    Then, they visited the engineering lab, where they saw the insides of "Annie" one of the micro-observatory telescopes.  She was sent back from Canberra, Australia, because she wasn't working.  Opening her up, they found two inches of water in the case. Apparently, water and electronics don't mix well.  It's taken five years to fix and upgrade her.  Annie should be operational soon.


    Annie - a micro-telescope - named after Annie Jump Cannon, a female astronomer from Harvard who examined over 225,000 stellar spectra and devised a scheme to rate and categorize stars based on their surface temperature.

    circuit board          mini

    This huge circuit was miniaturized into this tiny circuit board to fit into the telescope.

    Next, we saw the decommissioned huge refracting telescope.  It has a lens that is 15 feet in diameter.  The telescope sits on a forty-three foot high tower set into the bedrock so that it stays as still as possible.  Made in Germany and perfectly balanced in any position, it has a twin in Russia.


    The boys enjoyed some sitting time in the astonomer's version of a lazy boy, a movable chair that allowed them to watch the night sky for hours.


    At the end of our tour, we visited the Solar Lab, where scientist continually monitor the sun.  There was even a solar flare arching back on itself due to the magnetic pull of the sun.

    Large Sun

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