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An eye underwater

Dollar Bay High School robotics class gets regional youth award

October 20, 2012
By Kurt Hauglie ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

DOLLAR BAY - The zebra mussel is a tiny critter which can do a lot of damage, and a submersible remotely operated vehicle created by a class at Dollar Bay High School is helping officials at Isle Royale National Park fight the crustaceans at the park.

At a ceremony Wednesday at the high school, Valerie Martin, IRNP ranger and outreach and education specialist, presented the National Park Service Hertzog Award for Outstanding Youth Group for the Midwest Region to the DBHS Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics for their efforts with their ROV.

Martin said there are seven NPS regions in the country, so the DBHS SOAR team has a good chance of winning the national award at a ceremony in November in Washington, D.C.

Article Photos

Daily Mining Gazette/Kurt Hauglie
Dollar Bay High School 10th-grade students Abby Kangas, left, and Meagan Kangas demonstrate the operation of the Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics class aquatic robot, Torch, Thursday, in the basement of the school.

Matt Zimmer, DBHS science teacher, said the robotics program at the high school began three years ago. Students work on both aquatic and land ROVs.

The aquatic ROV has been tested at the docks at the Ramada Inn in Hancock, Zimmer said. In May, 19 students took the aquatic ROVs to Isle Royale to instruct the rangers there on its use for examining zebra mussel infestation at the docks at Rock Harbor and in other locations around the park.

"We taught the rangers how to operate, maintain and even repair the ROVs for use on the island," he said.

The rangers at Isle Royale kept the ROVs for the summer, and one failed beyond repair, but Zimmer said that was alright.

"It's real life," he said. "That's what happens."

Zimmer said the SOAR class is an elective for students in ninth to 12th grade. A student can take it all four years if he or she decides it's something they like. As they move forward through the class, they learn progressively more about robotics, and they don't repeat what they've already done. The students who have had the class longer become leaders for the students just starting out in the class.

In the class, Zimmer said students work at various aspects of robotics, including construction, programming and learning how to communicate to the public what they do in the class.

Zimmer said he appreciates that the award was given to the students in the robotics class.

"It recognizes the effort the students are putting forth," he said. "It's a valuable service and it's something needed in the community."

The aquatic ROV will continue to be used in real-world situations, Zimmer said.

"This spring, we're planning on visiting some sunken mining era remains in Torch Lake," he said.

During the award presentation, Martin told the SOAR students the NPS appreciates their work at Isle Royale.

"A very well-deserved award has come your way," she said.

After the presentation of the award, 11th-grade student Carl Kangas, student leader for the trip to Isle Royale, said he started the class in ninth grade.

"It sounded like an interesting class," he said.

Kangas said he will take the SOAR class next year, and he wants to get some kind of engineering degree in college.

The robotics class has been enjoyable for him, Kangas said.

"I enjoyed it when we had times when we completed a task that worked," he said.

However, things didn't always go well with the robots, Kangas said.

"I've had lots of frustrations," he said.

Occasionally, Kangas said the camera would fail on the ROV.

"You have no control (of the ROV)," he said of the failure. "That's really frustrating, but that's part of it."

William Rivest, Dollar Bay K-12 principal, said the robotics class has been good for the students.

"We're really excited to have this program for our students," he said.

Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools is the only local district in the Copper Country Intermediate School District to have such a class for both land and aquatic robotics, Rivest said.

Students learn things in the class they can take with them after they leave the school, Rivest said.

"The real life application is just so outstanding for our students," he said.



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