The aquatic center pool at Bishop Park at Bryant will become the site of an underwater engineering battle Saturday, Feb. 23, as Arkansas 4-H youth and their robotic submersibles take part in the 2019 SeaPerch Challenge.


The dramatic rescue of a soccer team from a flooded cave in Thailand has inspired this year’s SeaPerch Challenge — Mission: Rescue and Recovery. The teams will run their submersibles through an underwater obstacle course, and in a separate contest, will also have to execute specific tasks. Both competitions test the teams’ abilities to remotely control their submersibles.


More than 80 youth on 25 teams from 15 counties have registered for this competition.


SeaPerch is designed with science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, skills in mind. Not only do teams have to build the submersible, they will be judged on their documentation – an engineering notebook – as well as a presentation about their building process.


“The great thing about SeaPerch is that 4-H members can build their interest in STEM from the ground up, using parts that are readily available in hardware and electronics stores,” said Lori Canada, 4-H development coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. “Then, there’s the satisfaction of learning to use the submersible, make adjustments and working as a team to hone their skills for competition.”


“We’d also like to thank Bryant Parks and Recreation for use of the Bishop Park Aquatic Center,” Canada said.


New for the Arkansas SeaPerch Challenge this year is a partnership with the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas, which is co-hosting the event.


“Arkansas’ electric cooperatives are advocates for STEM education based programs, such as SeaPerch, that provide future leaders with learning opportunities that prepare them for the challenges of tomorrow,” said Rob Roedel, director of corporate communications for the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas. “We look forward to helping grow the SeaPerch program in Arkansas with Arkansas 4-H, our longtime youth education partner.”


Winning junior and senior teams may move on to the international competition to be held June 1-2, 2019, at the University of Maryland.


The SeaPerch competition is sponsored by the Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas.


“We believe that great STEM programs like SeaPerch are essential in preparing 4-Hers for the future,” Roedel said.


For details on the SeaPerch initiative, visit www.seaperch.org. The Arkansas 4-H program is operated by the Cooperative Extension Service. For details, contact a county extension office or visit www.uaex.edu.