Sea, Air and Land Challenge will engage high school students in STEM

On Saturday, May 3, nearly 100 high school students will engage in the Penn State Electro-Optics Center's Sea, Air and Land Challenge, a competition supported by engineering professionals and designed to mimic real world projects

The robotics engineering design challenge will bring students and their teachers from Butler, Seneca Valley, Kiski, Lenape Tech and Norwin to Butler County Community College.

The Sea, Air and Land Challenge guides students and educators through the engineering and design processes as student teams prepare to test their prototypes in one of the three fields:

-- Air Challenge: Develop a payload for an unmanned rotorcraft that performs autonomous drops into predefined drop zones. Students were provided size, weight and power limitations for the payload, and were given a GPS feed from the aircraft. On the day of the competition, the teams are provided GPS coordinates for drop zones. Their payload is installed in the aircraft which then performs a flight using way points.

-- Sea Challenge: A payload is developed for either a Sea Perch or a custom submersible to autonomously navigate through underwater obstacles, and also monitor water quality and temperature during its mission. Navigation is accomplished with sonar and imaging sensors.

-- Land Challenge: A ground robot, either custom or of VEX components, is developed to autonomously navigate through a complex obstacle course.

Professional engineers from throughout the region will serve as reviewers providing feedback, insights and encouragement. In 2014, the number of teams participating has increased along with support from businesses in industry, military, post-secondary and other education/workforce development organizations.

The EOC piloted the challenge last year in hopes of furthering student interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers and of demonstrating the importance of teamwork in engineering processes. 

For a look at Norwin High School's winning design in 2013, click here.

Joining the EOC in presenting the event are Intelitek, GE Transportation, Armstrong Group, Stantac, Oberg Indutries, Neya Systems, AESYNT Automating Healthcare, S.T.A.R.T, Butler County Community College, PA STEM Girls Collaborative, FASE, NW PA STEM and Armstrong County Manufacturing Consortium along with volunteers from the likes of SWAT, Allegheny County Sheriff's Department and Alcoa.

The Electro-Optics Center and its alliance of more than 400 companies, universities and government laboratories serves to nurture the development of electro-optic materials and components, and transition successful technologies needed for the advancement of the nation's defense capabilities.For more information about the Sea, Air and Land High School Challenge, contact Lori Harvey at or 724-295-7000724-295-7000, ext. 7111.

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Last Updated April 19, 2014