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The City Journals

Bonneville Jr. Vikings Build Underwater Vehicle

Mar 09, 2016 12:02PM ● By Bryan Scott

By Stephanie Lauritzen | [email protected]

Cottonwood - Holladay - Thanks to a motivated teacher with a passion for exploring the world, the Viking Robotics Club at Bonneville Jr. High will spend second semester building the SeaPerch ROV, an underwater vehicle designed to teach students basic engineering and science skills. Science teacher Lucia Bisbee believes the project will help students develop their problem-solving skills, and hopefully ignite a passion for other STEM skills-related projects. 

“In my opinion, the greatest skill acquired in this club is problem solving. It’s interesting, creative, messy, frustrating and not always easy to arrive at the best possible solution,” Bisbee said. 

SeaPerch is an educational robotics club sponsored by the Office of Naval Research. Teachers can apply for grants to bring the project to their school and build their own underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). The program is designed to use only low-cost and easily accessible parts and is based on a curriculum incorporating robotics, engineering, science and mathematics.  

According to, building the SeaPerch ROV “teaches basic skills in ship and submarine design and encourages students to explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering principles. It also teaches basic science and engineering concepts and tool safety and technical procedures. Students learn important engineering and design skills and are exposed to all the exciting careers that are possible in naval architecture and naval, ocean, and marine engineering.”

After learning about the program from a colleague at the University of Utah, Bisbee applied for a grant and received five kits, enough for 20 students to participate in the program.  SeaPerch’s emphasis on increasing science and engineering skills in a hands-on, student-led manner appealed to Bisbee, who also appreciated the organized curriculum and support system for teachers. Once her grant was secured, Bisbee invited students to apply for the 2016 Viking Robotics club in December and was pleased with the enthusiastic response. “We had interest of over 50 students this year, but unfortunately, due to the nature of the project we could only support four students per kit,” Bisbee said. Students will work on building the SeaPerch once a week after school for nine to 10 weeks. Afterward, they will join other Utah students in a statewide competition in March. 

 Due to the high student interest in the SeaPerch project, Bisbee hopes to increase student opportunities by integrating the club into a full-year STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) elective class for seventh- and eighth-grade students. “That will depend on approval from the district, so for now I would like to have two to three projects that the students would work on throughout the year,” Bisbee said. Bisbee looks forward to teaching her students elements of buoyancy, displacement, motor movement, soldering, ergonomic design and biological sampling -- all aspects of the integrated science core curriculum. 

In a world and job market increasingly dependent on technological and engineering skills, Bisbee believes her club will benefit students long after the SeaPerch ROV is completed.  “Students that are willing to solve problems and learn from their mistakes are usually more adaptable to be challenged in their classes,” Bisbee said. “This not only will help their academic future but their career future as well.  The workplace is competitive, and students who can show they are able to think independently, bring solutions (not problems) and work effectively on a team are valuable skills to offer.”

For Bisbee, mentoring the Vikings Robotics Club and helping students build the SeaPerch allows her to incorporate her passion for travel and being outdoors into her teaching. “I love underwater exploration and research, and I have always been curious about our world,” Bisbee said. “And I gravitated towards teaching science as an amazing opportunity to explore the world around us with students.”