Two locals return to National underwater robot competion

Navy-sponsored event focus on design and piloting


Two Monument students attending The Classical Academy are on the road again to the national SeaPerch Challenge competition, a Navy-sponsored and administered event, this year held at University of Southern Mississippi (Southern Miss) in Hattiesburg, Miss., on Saturday May 17. Other students from TCA will also participate.

“My son and his friend are competing in the National SeaPerch Competition May 17. They build remote control underwater robots and compete with them. They have an obstacle course and a challenge course that their SeaPerchs do. They are timed events,” says Barbara Stappenbeck, Danny Stappenbeck’s mother.

Both boys are from Monument. Danny lives off County Line Road, Kevyn Kelso lives off Highway 105. The SeaPerch is a Navy program teaching the boys to build and compete with their SeaPerchs at an after-school program at The Classical Academy. This year, Danny is competing in Middle School, Kevyn in the High School division.

They both went to Nationals last year, finishing sixth.

“Now that we have been to nationals, I think we can probably place higher,” said Kevyn Kelso last week.

Danny agrees. “I think we have better designs, and we also have a good feel for what is going on.”

Danny says he specializes more in design, and Kevyn designs and enjoys driving the craft, “I have spent a lot of time over the last three years working on this, most of it driving,” Kevyn said. “Hundreds of hours.”

Last year the competition was in Indianapolis. This year it’s in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They practice with their robots in Kevyn’s hot tub and in local hotel swimming pools.

The University of Southern Mississippi is hard at work preparing for the competition.

“We want everyone to be aware that the pool we are using at Southern Miss has a unique bottom configuration, which, if not addressed, could have caused some lanes to have an advantage over others for the Heist Challenge. To provide a fair and equal competition for all, we have built and will have installed a 45 foot by 20 foot sub-floor spanning the six-lane pool to provide a stable bottom surface at equal depth,” according to contest organizers.

In addition to this stable sub-floor, each team will have an underwater video camera mounted at a fixed depth and a monitor on the pool deck to aid in maneuvering its SeaPerch ROVs during the underwater events.

“We are confident that these additions will not only provide an ‘equal playing field,’ but enhance your overall experience of competing at Nationals,” according to University information.

The Mississippi Regional SeaPerch Committee will be hosts for the event where up to 100 teams from across the country are anticipated. This year, students will enjoy a “college experience,” as accommodations and meals will be available for all participants on the university’s campus, only a short walk to Saturday’s in-pool and poster completion events.


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