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By LINDSAY OLIVIER
NORTH KINGSTOWN - Instead of lying on sandy beaches in some tropical country or skiing at a winter resort, a select group of kids from across Rhode Island spent their winter vacation preparing for their futures.
Eleven students, including two from North Kingstown, spent last week at the Rhode Island Naval Sea Cadet Corps (NSCC) on Ocean Drive to take part in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative called SeaPerch.
The purpose was to conduct a hands-on training exercise to produce a remotely operated underwater vehicle (ROV) made from PVC pipe and other materials. The exercise is designed to create an interest in career paths for youths by encouraging participation in drills and projects that use problem-solving, discovery, exploration learning and solution-finding.
Trainers were provided by NSCC SeaPerch instructors from Quonset.
â€śWeâ€™re not here to persuade them to enter the service,â€ť said U.S. Naval Sea Cadets Quonset Point President David Kerwood. â€śWe want these youngsters to go to college and get great jobs. The knowledge they gain from being a sea cadet will help them in any profession.â€ť
Constructing the ROV allowed the cadets, who ranged in ages from 12-16, to learn the basic skills in ship and submarine design and encouraged them to possibly explore naval architecture and marine and ocean engineering careers
As part of the construction, the cadets had to assemble everything from scratch, including the control box.
â€śThis is the brain of the ROV,â€ť Kerwood said. â€śThey had to solder the wires together and test them to make sure they worked properly. For many of the cadets, this is the first time theyâ€™ve had to put something like this together.â€ť
Included in the class curriculum are instructions in basic science and engineering concepts, tool safety and technical procedures.
Cadets learned important technical and design skills and in the process got an introduction to the careers that are possible in naval architecture and naval, ocean, and marine engineering.
This hands-on SeaPerch experience is designed to become a gateway to further study and careers in robotics, electronics, marine sciences and more.
Once the ROV is completed, a 50-foot cable is attached and dropped into 15-20 feet of water to see how it operates.
A freshman at North Kingstown High School, Austin Amos heard about the sea cadets from his neighbors who went through the program. Itâ€™s because of this program that Amos has become interested in pursuing a career in electrical engineering.
The only girl in the week-long camp and youngest, Calista Dâ€™Elia, 12, of Greenville, says she took one sea cadet drill and became hooked.
â€śEverything I wanted to pursue in life, Iâ€™m learning here,â€ť she said. â€śI want to become a military nurse and study marine biology and the tools I need for those careers I can learn here.â€ť
Only 13 years-old, Wickford Middle School student Justin Leich says he already knows he wants to join the military and become a navy seal.
â€śIâ€™m going to continue through this program,â€ť Leich said. â€śThis is the best college prep course there is.â€ť
The SeaPerch program is fairly new to the Sea Cadets and the cadets in Quonset are the first in the nation to complete this exercise.
The U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps is the only federally-sponsored nationwide youth association within the U.S. Department of Defense. The Sea Cadets have been in Quonset since 1964 and are one of three units in the state including Newport and Providence.
There are 180 units in operation in almost every state in the country and in Puerto Rico and Guam, with nearly 10,000 young Americans participation.
For more information on the Rhode Island Sea Cadets and the SeaPerch program, visit www.riseacadets.org.