Students at Lamar Academy attributed their success at capturing the top two places at the U.S. Navy SeaPerch Challenge to one thing: teamwork.
Team members said they worked together throughout the process, from the design to testing their final products. They even established both teams to have the same level of skill among its members.
"You have to work together and compromise," Maryam Elizondo, a junior at Lamar Academy, said.
Lamar Academy's two teams were among 18 from about a dozen Rio Grande Valley high schools -- almost all of the schools had two teams compete -- that vied for a trophy and medals Oct. 11 during the Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) conference at The University of Texas-Pan American. This is the third year UTPA has hosted the event, which the Office of Naval Research sponsors and The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation manages.
Each team developed remote-controlled watercraft robots that they maneuvered through an underwater obstacle course and with which they picked up plastic rings from the bottom of the pool. The students also had to present their device, along with a poster explaining the process of developing the robot, to a panel of judges. The judges tabulated scores from the obstacle course, ring pick up and presentation to determine a winner.
The high school's bravo team won first place, earning 71 points, while its alpha team won second place with 66 points. Harlingen High School's bravo team took third place with 65 points.
Members of the Lamar teams said they were impressed with the other schools' designs and the students' abilities. "Everybody competed very well," Johnmarc Candelaria, a junior at Lamar Academy, said.
Their coach, physics teacher Marc Braden, said his students worked very hard and that the experience gave them another opportunity to apply what they've been learning in the classroom.
"It's a really tight-knit group of students who have been working together for awhile now," Braden said. "They learned a lot from last year and were really excited to apply the things they learned to do even better."
As winners, the Lamar bravo team is eligible to compete in the 2014 National SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Miss. in May.
The Lamar students said they would love to go if they can raise enough money. UTPA is contributing $1,000 toward the trip.
Lt. Israel Villarreal of the U.S. Navy said HESTEC and the SeaPerch Challenge give the Navy an opportunity to stress the importance of having skills in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
"STEM overall is vital to the country," Villarreal said. "Everything in the Navy is technology driven."
Villarreal said he was impressed with the students' work and said all the Navy did was provide the kits to make the watercraft robots. The rest was up to their imagination.
"I'm just glad we're able to provide these for high school students," he said. "I wish we could do this for every single kid and give them the exposure."
HESTEC continues Saturday, Oct. 12 with its Community Day, which will feature musical acts, exhibits and other activities for the whole family.
For more information, visit utpa.edu/hestec.