An underwater robotics program is teaching STEM to students

The Boys and Girls Club of Wayne, New Jersey is employing a novel way to submerge students in science, technology, engineering and math – an underwater robotics program.


Here's a novel way to submerge students in science, technology, engineering, and math -- hand kids a STEM tool and order them to sink it.

Reporter Erin Delmore has the story.

It's just about the most fun you can have at a pool without jumping in.

Here at the Boys & Girls Club of Wayne, students work on creating underwater robots.

The program's called WaterBotics, and the curriculum was developed by Stevens Institute of Technology.

T.J. Walters is a sophomore at Stevens.

He's also the WaterBotics coordinator for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Wayne and Pequannock, where he teaches 5th through 8th graders.

It's actually really fun to see the kids working out all the solutions to the problems.

Basically, what I do is, I give them a problem at the beginning of the day and then I say, 'All right, go underwater,' and I let them loose.

The robot we're making, it's supposed to grab a ball and take it underwater with it.


And how's that working out for you so far?

Not that well.

The students get into groups and build prototypes that can move forward, backward, up, and down.

This control moves this propel, and the other one moves propel.

Mostly made out of Legos.

There's some electronic parts inside this blue case right here that, obviously, run the engine.

And they can't get wet that much, so we have to put them in this case.

Then they test out their models.

It's dipped inside the pool probably, like, 20-something times -- a lot of times mostly for tests, a couple times for competitions, like soccer or defusing bombs.

Score a goal in soccer by capturing and moving a ping-pong ball across the pool.

Defuse a bomb by turning this cup over.

When you tip it over, it 'explodes.'

Right now it's all fun and games, but program administrators say these kids are gaining valuable skills at an early age.

They are actually learning, one, to build, and how to actually get these, two, to run, to do multiple different functions as far as grabbing items.

So they play ping-pong.

They actually play games against each other.

I didn't get exposed into robotics until I was in high school, which I regret because I got so into it, and seeing how into it these kids are, it's amazing to see how much they really just dive into it and it just consumes them.

I'm hearing from their counselors -- their normal counselors in camp -- that they won't stop talking about it.

So being able to expose kids to science, technology, engineering, and math so early in their lives is really important to developing their career choices.

Katie, Calista, and Kaylyn say their favorite subject in school is math.

While they're mostly undecided on future jobs, Kaylyn has an idea.

I might be a doctor or I'm trying to become a -- work for Google, maybe.

Their instructor says programs like this one can help even out the gender gap in engineering.

There's more newer and exciting opportunities with programming, computer science is a very, very big field right now, engineering -- especially mechanical, industrial engineering, biomedical engineering is very important with the medicinal fields.

And as you see more of the working class and the assembly-line jobs going away, you're actually gonna see a lot more of people designing the assembly lines coming in.

The hope is that a program like this will spark interest and one day these future engineers will remember where they got their feet wet.