PHS students win at international and regional robotics competitions

by Riya Lakhani

The award-winning Pennsbury High School underwater robotics club known as the “SeaFalcons” competed in their first international competition at the University of Maryland on May 13th, following a regional competition where they won the community service award and the Wild Card Slot for Internationals.

Leaders of the club include Michael Davis, Riya Lakhani, John Shea, Vinay Belagodu, Cameron Golden, Alex Huegler, Neil Griesbaum, and Miranda Newton, who all competed at UMD.  For this international competition, they joined teams from around the world, including representation from Dubai, Egypt, China, and New Zealand. They found success by being presented with the Sportsmanship Award.

The special award recognized a commitment to fair play, ethical behavior and integrity, and general goodwill to others. Stated a competition spokesperson, “You would recognize this team by their mascot and friendly team members who cheered on other teams, handed out giveaways to remember them by, and clearly made an impression on a large number of participants. This was their first time at the International SeaPerch Challenge and they noted that ‘(their) goal was to make internationals a blast for everyone.’”

For the competition the club designed and manufactured an underwater robot that could perform various tasks, like lifting heavy parts or pushing buttons underwater. The bot was maneuvered through an underwater obstacle course and a mission course. They were judged on a formal presentation, a team video, robot performance, and a design report. 

The teams’ success didn’t end at internationals. Another division of the SeaFalcons took home the Overall Champion Award at the Greater Philadelphia SeaGlide Challenge just four days later. They received first place for their presentation to a board of professionals from the Navy and Temple University, as well as taking home another first place trophy recognizing their extensive documentation for the automatic underwater glide vehicle (SeaGlide) they developed.

Furthermore, the team competed against other schools and organizations in coding and circuit building challenges.

The SeaFalcons were ranked second in code debugging, meaning that they were able to fix a simulated broken vehicle. Team members Jack Carlson, Srujan Damaraju, Joaquin Descotte, Ishan Kalro, Luke McKeon, Miranda Newton, and Jasper Stackawitz are ecstatic to have taken home another Overall Championship for the SeaGlide Division of the SeaFalcons.

This years’ successes were particularly meaningful, as most of the PHS competitors are seniors who won a coveted spot in the international competition as freshmen, only to be canceled due to the pandemic. Their freshman advisor, retired technology education teacher John Sanders, joined the students to support and watch the competitions.

The students were also supported by their advisor, chemistry teacher Miguel Hermo and his wife, Emma. Along with PHS’s Falcon Mascot, Mr. Hermo led a big Falcon chant that filled the entire UMD natatorium!

Way to go SeaFalcons! Thanks for representing Pennsbury, Pennsylvania, and the US with pride!

PHOTO CAPS: Members of the SeaGlide team, back row from left, Jack Carlsen, Luke McKeon, and Ishan Kalro; front row, Miranda Newton and Joaquin Descotte.

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