UACES Facebook Madison, Grant County 4-H teams advance to international SeaPerch Challenge
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March 10, 2020

Madison, Grant County 4-H teams advance to international SeaPerch Challenge

By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

  • Three teams advance to international competition in May
  • Two junior teams, one senior team
  • International competition held at University of Maryland

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BRYANT, Ark. — After weeks of testing the remotely operated craft they assembled from PVC pipe, pool noodles, wire and tiny motors, members of 43 youth teams took turns at the edge of the municipal pool here competing for a spot in the international SeaPerch Challenge.

ONWARD, TO MARYLAND — Members of the Madison County RoboClovers receive congratulations as they are called to receive their 1st-place trophy at the March 6 SeaPerch competition in Bryant, Ark. The team, along with two others, will advance to the international competition, held at the University of Maryland in May. (Division of Agriculture photo.)

At day’s end, two teams from Madison County and one team from Grant County earned the opportunity to advance to the big competition May 30-31 at the University of Maryland.

The SeaPerch Challenge hosted in-state by the Arkansas 4-H program required competitors to guide their creations underwater through a daunting collection of hoops and obstacles. In addition, they had to make presentations on how they designed, built and programmed their craft, as well as show documentation of their engineering challenges, thought processes and solutions.

This year’s competition, held March 6 at The Center at Bishop Park in Bryant attracted a record 160 entrants from 16 counties across Arkansas.

This year’s competition theme is “Waterway Cleanup,” with the challenge meant to mimic events in which remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, assist in cleanup efforts.

Going to the international

Arkansas 4-H received three invitations to the international competition. Because there were about twice as many junior-level teams as senior-level teams in this year’s competition, the invitations were being awarded to the top senior and the top two junior teams, Lori Canada, 4-H youth development coordinator for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said. The senior category is for ages 14-19. The juniors are ages 9-13.

Madison County’s RoboClovers won the senior competition, with team members

Laven Franklin, Austin Franklin and Tucker Stewart. The winning junior teams were Madisgarjack of Grant County, including team members Sydney Miller, Jackson Friedman, Garrett Key and Madison Andrews; and Madison County’s Trumpinators, including team members Colton Edwards, Trevor Edwards and Brayden Krizan.

Real world skills

Brad McGinley, Grant County extension agent, runs the local SeaPerch program in conjunction with the Sheridan School District. This year marks the fourth straight year Grant County has sent a team to the international event. McGinley said the 28 students in the program began work in October, learning “real world hands-on skills like soldering, working with hand tools and so much more.

“However, the main focus has been walking the students through the engineering design process to design, construct and continually improve their ROV,” McGinley said. “My favorite part of this program is to see how these kids gain so many life skills like working with teammates, effective communication, and the important skill of problem solving and critical thinking.”

McGinley said that after a celebratory pizza party, all of the students will pitch in “as one team of engineers to help our four-member winning team really focus on making their ROV better, and hopefully more competitive, nationally.”

In Madison County, “they’ve been working on them since January; fine-tuning them,” said Caramie Edwards, the county’s extension agent for the Division of Agriculture. “It doesn’t take long to build them, but there’s lots of testing and having to redo things and test again.”

The team made frequent trips to neighboring Carroll County where they had use of an indoor pool for testing.

Interest is growing

Angie Blacklaw-Freel, 4-H interim associate department head for the Division of Agriculture, said the program has seen a substantial increase in involvement since Arkansas 4-H first became involved in 2015.

“It has been a pleasure to watch this program grow for the past five years,” Blacklaw-Freel said. “We could not have accomplished this without Lori’s leadership and creativity. We are also grateful for the support of First Electric Cooperatives in both sponsorship and their employees serving as volunteers at the contest and promoting and educating within their communities.”

Canada said seeing 4-H participants from around the state work to meet the challenge throughout the daylong competition was rewarding.

“This year’s SeaPerch was a huge success,” Canada said. “We are excited about the growth of the program for youth to learn about the engineering process to build their underwater vehicles. I saw excitement and joy in the kid's faces as they competed and accomplished tasks in the water on Friday.”

To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit Follow us on Twitter at @UAEX_edu.

About the Division of Agriculture

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system. 

The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media contact: 
Ryan McGeeney
Department of Communications
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2120