Going Underwater With Robots to Learn - KTVN Channel 2 - Reno Tahoe Sparks News, Weather, Video

Going Underwater With Robots to Learn

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Teachers from area high schools and middle schools are learning how to build and operate underwater robots as a part of a workshop to bring their new skills back to the classroom. 

The hope is that students will be using the new technology and computer programming to get a different kind of education at school. 

Since the beginning of August, 6th through 12th grade teachers from counties across Northern Nevada have been enrolled in the Nevada STEM Underwater and Aerial Vehicle Computer Science Institute at the Tahoe Environmental Research Center in Incline Village. The courses they take are designed to provide teachers with professional development in computer programming, 3-D modeling, aerial drone technology and underwater vehicle operations. 

On Thursday, the participants were finishing up the underwater remote operated vehicles (ROV's) part of the program. 

With these devices, Dr. Alex Forrest from the University of California, Davis said, "You're able to fly into environments under water and do floor inspections, you can use these to look for invasive species."

But before exploring the depths of Lake Tahoe, teachers were completing the last assembly instructions to build six OpenROV 2.8 underwater robots. 

Soldering, welding and wiring together the robots has been a tough assignment for this group of 18 teachers.

Josh Billings, a teacher at Carson Middle School in Carson City said, "It's been very complicated. We opened the box and there were about a thousand different pieces."

Other than building the underwater robots, the teachers will have the opportunity to use them in bodies of water with their students. Lights, a camera, and lasers help the pilot operating the device to navigate in the water. There is also a live view transmitting to a computer to monitor activity. 

"You're operating it through a tether so you hook it up, and then you can drive it in real time," said Forrest. 

Billings plans on using the new technology to inspire his middle school students. "It gets them engaged into the building, into how to problem solve, it gets them engaged into how to take a really cool piece of technology and use it, apply it in the real world."

Forrest adds, "If we can show how accessible that is right now at this level, then hopefully we can excite kids to take this into a career path."

Toni Dudas-Tacner is a teacher from Vaughn Middle School in Reno. She plans on taking advantage of this opportunity to help her students who are less fortunate. "Most of the families are lower income and not only get a hands on learning where they might be able to get a scholarship and get a job."

Once building is finished, the equipment will be available for teachers to checkout in the future with their students.

A field trip is scheduled to test out the underwater robots at a local swimming pool at the end of September. And a day at Lake Tahoe is scheduled in October. 

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