In 66 minutes, fifth graders are building a better underwater robot.  At Columbia River Maritime Museum, 150 fifth graders from Lewis and Clark Elementary School had the chance to design, build and deploy underwater robots that they had built themselves.

Soft SkillsThe new Under the Sea STEM Program is a pilot effort to engage students in STEM subjects at the museum.

“The main goal for me with the education department here is to make everything hands-on and activity based,” said Nate Sandel, manager of the museum’s education department.

Sandel told the students that they were to design, build and deploy an underwater robot that would retrieve one of seven mission short barrel cannons of a schooner that wrecked at the mouth of the Columbia River in 1846, the USS Shark.  The catch was that they had to do it in 66 minutes or less.

Some of the lost cannons have been previously found and restored.  Two were found in 2008 by a 12 year old girl walking on the beach with her dad.  One was found by a mail carrier in 1898.

Students had some basic instructions, and split off into teams of two and three.  Soon the workroom at the maritime center was buzzing with teams putting together PVC pipes, figuring out how to set their engines, and how to balance and float the submersibles.

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