For students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the SeaPerch Challenge is an opportunity to practice these skills through building and piloting an underwater robot.
Two Grant County 4-H teams placed in the top 10 at the event featuring remotely operated vehicles at the International SeaPerch Challenge on May 13. A team from Howard County also participated.
The Grant County 4-H Mighty Ducks and Grant County Turbo Flare 2.0 -- along with the Howard County 4-H Shockwaves from Nashville attended the competition at the University of Maryland in College Park.
These teams were the winning open, senior and junior class teams from the qualifying Arkansas SeaPerch Challenge at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock on March 3.
Grant County's Turbo Flare 2.0 -- Gracie McGinley, Riley Raymick, Callen Shaw and Gavin McGinley -- placed third overall in the high school stock class. Brad McGinley, Grant County extension staff chair for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and his wife, Serena McGinley, coached the team. Serena McGinley is a 4-H leader and Sheridan Intermediate School fifth-grade teacher.
Grant County's The Mighty Ducks -- Garrett Key, Luke Douthit, Priyam Laxmi, Jaxson Andrews, Miley McGinley and Madi Andrews -- placed eighth overall in the open class. Brad McGinley and Tina Melton, a career development teacher at Sheridan Middle School, coached the team.
The Howard County 4-H Shockwaves -- Asher Howard, Ace McKinnon and Kody O'Brien -- placed 28th overall in the middle school stock class. Morgan Howard, mother of Asher Howard and 4-H leader, coached the team.
LEARNING BY DOING
Brad McGinley said the SeaPerch program provides participants with hands-on experience in important life skills.
"SeaPerch teaches critical thinking skills, teamwork and problem solving," he said. "I think it's really important that youth are able to identify problems that don't always have an easy, quick solution. You have to work through it. Sometimes, you fix a problem and then another problem arises from that. It's a continual process of adapting and working together."
McGinley said that for the last seven years in a row, Grant County 4-H has had at least one team qualify for the International SeaPerch Challenge. He said that the trip is a unique opportunity for 4-H'ers -- for many of them, it's their first time flying.
"It's very rewarding for us," McGinley said. "We have kids that have never flown before, so just seeing them get their chance to fly for the first time is a big deal."
Team members cover the cost of their own travel through fundraising.
Once they arrived at the University of Maryland, Arkansas 4-H teams competed with teams from around the U.S. and the world, including teams from Kuwait, New Zealand, Brazil, Puerto Rico, Egypt and China.
"You're competing against teams that are the best at this in the U.S. and in the world," McGinley said. "All of those teams had to win a regional qualifier to advance, just like us. This year, there were 148 teams from across the country and world."
Since the competition was close to Washington, D.C., McGinley said they stayed a couple of extra days for sightseeing. They visited national monuments, made a trip to Mount Vernon and were even led on a tour of the capitol by a member of U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman's office. Westerman represents Arkansas' 4th district.
"We got to do a few extra things, which is an incredibly great experience for the kids and the families who got to go with us," McGinley said.
To view the full list of International SeaPerch results, visit bit.ly/2023-international-seaperch-results. For more information about the Arkansas 4-H SeaPerch Challenge, visit 4h.uada.edu. To learn more about the SeaPerch program, visit seaperch.org/about.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension.
Rebekah Hall is with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.