Biology teams up with Robotics
June 15, 2023
A few students from the Wahkiakum High School Robotics team took their winning robot from the SeaPerch competition to the Elochoman River to see how well it would work in field studies. The goal was to find out if the SeaPerch robot would be a helpful tool in combination with live student snorkel divers for collecting Biological data in the Elochoman River. Their teacher said, "The answer was a resounding yes!" This is spawning grounds for the pikeminnow and they hoped to catch a glimpse of some while answering this question. Rook's Biology class already comes to this swimming hole to study native Signal Crayfish (Pacifiasticus leniusculus). They have hotdogs in a trap, and they are on the watch for Red Swamp Crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) which is an invasive species. Thankfully they haven't found any of them yet.
Rook, who is a mentor on the robotics team, wanted to collaborate on the two subjects he loves the most. Bringing hands-on learning to his students in a real world application. The robot that was designed for a pool setting held its own against the current of the river. "A 5th motor would help if this would be a regular duty," driver Peter Vik said. However the robot followed the commands of the skilled operator flawlessly. The fish camera the team installed on the front showed a very clear picture of what was under the surface. They saw trout, pikeminnow, juvenile steelhead, coho, and crayfish. The biggest fish of all was Elijah Thompson in his diver suit. Using a snorkel, he was also working in the water beside the robot to look for life in the river. It was evident that he was enjoying learning today! Classmate Robert Winters was also there as lineman for the driver. This is an important task as it keeps the robot from getting tangled in its own line.
These students built this robot for a competition but the learning doesn't have to stop just because the competition is over. They have found a new use outside of competition: research for science class. Rook referenced the Seattle Aquarium Research Department to his students (who came as guest speakers to WHS in the fall.) "What you (students) did today, checking on species in the river, was a small-scale operation of what the research scientists do in their study of kelp forests." Hands on learning is a great way to help kids retain what they learn.