High schoolers immerse in engineering at Coast Guard Academy

Students from the Providence Career and Technical Academy High School in Rhode Island participate in a Robotics on the Water event in this undated Coast Guard photo from 2014.


By JOHANNA SOMERS | The (New London, Conn.) Day | Published: July 16, 2014

NEW LONDON, Conn. — In the midst of 6 a.m. wake up calls, eight-minute showers and all-you-can-eat meals, about 180 high school students are building radio-controlled vessels for one week at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

The program, Coast Guard Academy Robotics on Water, aims to teach students how to strategically build ships that can complete Coast Guard missions ranging from rescuing survivors, cleaning up oil spills and capturing terrorists or drug runners. The vessel that can complete the most tasks in a pond-like structure Friday wins the competition.

“We should probably call it the Titanic at this point,” said Mike Tormey, 16, of Bangor, Maine.

Bravo Division One, a team of about five students, was on its second day of trying to build a radio-controlled floating robotic craft at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday. They were given a box with materials such as Styrofoam, scrap metal, screws, propellers, gears and motors Tuesday and had to use engineering, problem-solving and teamwork skills to create their vessel. Their group was aiming to break up ice, anchor buoys and capture and jail terrorists in the 10-foot by 10-foot, water filled, competition arena.

The 180 students are just one group of about 550 high school students who will get to take advantage of the weeklong military service and engineering program at the academy. The academy holds three weeklong programs each summer.

Capt. Jonathan Russell, who heads the engineering department and is the dean of engineering, said the program gives students a chance to learn about engineering and the Coast Guard, while at the same time gives the Coast Guard a chance to observe future cadet candidates.

“We take notes and say, 'Here is somebody that's really good at and interested in engineering,' and if a year later that person applies to the academy and says, 'I want to be an engineer,' it adds credibility to that,” Russell said. “If there was somebody who hated the engineering thing and then refused to participate and then later on, in a year, says, 'I want to be an engineer … really?' ”


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