LSU to Host U.S. Navy National SeaPerch Challenge

BATON ROUGE – More than 1,300 middle and high school students from across the country, plus Australia, the Cayman Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands, will compete in an underwater robotics championship, the National SeaPerch Challenge, on Saturday, May 21, at LSU. More than 190 teams will maneuver their hand-built remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs, through an underwater obstacle course at the LSU natatorium.

“Since our inception, SeaPerch has introduced the concept of underwater robotics, naval engineering and STEM to over 300,000 students in 10 countries. We are committed to the educational aspect of what we do and strive to light the fire within students to pursue STEM careers. In our own way, we like to think we are helping to change the world,” said Susan Giver Nelson, founder and executive director of the SeaPerch Program, which is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research.

Built from kits comprised of low-cost, easily accessible supplies such as PVC pipe, the ROVs provide the students the opportunity to learn about electric circuit operations.

“Building a SeaPerch shows a student what they are capable of and, we hope, ignites a spark of interest in studying STEM. I have many stories from teachers about how this program has positively influenced students’ lives, academic careers and future plans. This is why we do this work,” Nelson said.

The sixth annual national championship will bring together students from 34 states as well as Australia, the Cayman Islands and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of the 193 teams, 79 teams are from the South including 29 teams from Texas, 22 from Virginia, seven from Florida, five from Mississippi, four from Georgia, three from Louisiana, three from South Carolina, two from North Carolina, two from Tennessee and two from Arkansas.

The middle and high school students will maneuver their SeaPerch ROVs through an underwater obstacle course with remote controls. Controlling the SeaPerch’s movements and speed while keeping in mind factors such as thrust, buoyancy and ballast are keys to success. During the technical challenge called the Orbs, teams line the edge of the swimming pool carefully maneuvering their SeaPerch to release balls from specially made devices and then collect the balls with their ROVs. Competing in the Orbs challenge tests the students’ design and ROV operations skills.

“I see the same excitement with SeaPerch that I do when children learn to play video games or a new sport. Students suddenly never miss class and want to learn all they can about building robots and underwater exploration while also engaging in collecting and sharing data—the students become researchers and see the value in research,” said Bridgette Davis, director of the Gulf Coast Regional SeaPerch Challenge and LSU School of Education assistant professor.

Teams attending the SeaPerch National Challenge have qualified through regional competitions. The opening ceremony will begin at 8:45 a.m. in the LSU Carl Maddox Fieldhouse. The pool competition and qualifying poster presentations will be followed by an awards ceremony at 6 p.m.


Keynote speakers include: 

F. King Alexander
LSU President

Damon Andrew
Dean of the LSU College of Human Sciences & Education 

Alyssa Carson
13-year-old Future Astronaut

Kelly B. Cooper
Office of Naval Research

Kalliat T. Valsaraj
LSU Vice President of Research & Economic  Development

William Burnett
Deputy Commander and Technical Director to the Commander
Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command/ Task Group

Brittany White
Lead Execution Engineer
ExxonMobil Development Company
Julia Project


About SeaPerch

SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that equips teachers and students with the resources they need to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle. SeaPerch is a K-12 Educational Outreach program sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, or ONR, and managed by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation, or AUVSIF. It is one of the Navy’s signature outreach programs. Since its inception in 2007, more than 300,000 students and 17,000 teachers and mentors have participated garnering 4.5 million contact hours. About 80 percent of the students report an interest in a STEM career after participating in SeaPerch. The SeaPerch program has been has been offered in all 50 states and Puerto Rico. It is also offered in 10 countries.

About LSU School of Education

The LSU School of Education, or SOE, offers graduate and undergraduate programs in curriculum and instruction and in educational leadership, research and counseling. The school’s mission is to prepare P-12 educational professionals to be leaders, practitioners and scholars knowledgeable in contemporary educational issues. Visit the School of Education at

About CHSE

The College of Human Sciences & Education, or CHSE, is a nationally accredited division of LSU. The college is comprised of the School of Education, the School of Human Resource Education and Workforce Development, the School of Kinesiology, the School of Library and Information Science, the School of Social Work and the University Laboratory School. These combined schools offer eight undergraduate degree programs and 18 graduate programs, enrolling more than 1,900 undergraduate and 977 graduate students. The college is committed to achieving the highest standards in teaching, research and service and is continually working to improve its programs. Visit the College of Human Sciences & Education at






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LSU Media Relations


Mary Woods
College of Human Sciences & Education