Port Townsend’s Sea Dragons underwater robotics team took first at a Pacific Northwest competition in May and is headed to this year’s International Championships in June.
“When they announced us as the winner, we were all so excited to go to Tennessee that we all leapt from our seats,” ROV pilot Ayden Ratliff, a 6th grade student in OCEAN, stated in a Sea Dragons news release.
“We got lots of recognition for completing over 1,500 hours of outreach in our local community,” said the team’s data analyst and Research and Development chief, Logan Flanagan, a senior at Port Townsend High School.
In the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) ROV contest, elementary-to-college-aged students are given real-world problems to solve, which is exactly what the Sea Dragons did earlier this year.
Modifying their sub-surface drone to take video, the team surveyed dock damage for The Port of Brownsville, which was preparing to replace an aging fuel dock and needed more data about conditions underwater.
With that work and with contest experience under its belt, the Sea Dragon team is headed to Tennessee to compete in missions related to the theme of “Innovations for Inshore: ROV Operations in Rivers, Lakes and Dams.”
“We have a lot of improvements to make on our ROV,” said Ella Ashford, a homeschooled senior who serves as CEO, electrical and software engineer of the Sea Dragons.
“Additionally, we need to fundraise to support our travel expenses. As a small team out on the Olympic Peninsula, we need the weight of our whole community behind us if we want to be successful.”
Contest missions include inspecting drainage pipes, releasing simulated fish into the environment, and recovering a civil war-era cannon.
Students on the Sea Dragons team include Flanagan, Ashford, and Ashford’s brothers Nathaniel and Everest, a homeschooled freshman and 7th-grader, respectively, plus Ratliff.
The Sea Dragons’ ROV, named the SS Dragon, is primarily built of recycled aerospace-grade carbon fiber, a build done in collaboration with the Composite Recycling Technology Center and the Peninsula College Advanced Manufacturing and Composite Technology program.
In addition to making final modifications to their design, the team is fundraising to support travel expenses.
MATE ROV competitors create a business model, give an engineering presentation and write technical reports to be competitive in the event, Ashford wrote in a news release.