Kudos for STEM grant

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, October 24, 2019

Suffolk Public Schools announced recently it had been selected for a $10,000 state competitive grant to expand its student engineering competition — the Sea, Air, Land Challenge.

The grant funding from the Virginia Department of Education was offered to increase awareness of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics among teachers and students through STEM-related, problem and project-based, team-building activities.

The excellent Sea, Air, Land Challenge, or SeAL Challenge, for short, has been hosted at Suffolk Public Schools for the last two years. Teams of middle and high school students have several weeks to design an unmanned vehicle to perform surveillance and reconnaissance missions in the challenge of their choice — as the name indicates, either an underwater course, an air course (think drones) or a land course.

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The teams research and plan their design while sticking to a modest $500 budget. They submit designs, receive feedback, consult with industry mentors and so forth all prior to actually beginning to build their robotic systems. On the challenge day, they have two chances to complete tasks on their selected course and are judged on accuracy, ability to maneuver and more. They are given a chance to adjust between the two attempts to improve their performance. Teams are awarded not only for winning but also for creativity and for improvement between the two runs.

This competition teaches and emphasizes not only STEM skills but also problem-solving, teamwork, resiliency and good sportsmanship. We couldn’t be more pleased to see it hosted in Suffolk and to know that it is expanding next year thanks to this grant.