By Cindy Butler Focke
The Virginian-Pilot Virginia Beach Beacon
February 17, 2011
It was full speed ahead for members of Landstown Middle School’s CHROME club.
They were learning how to make a remotely operated vehicle work. Previously, they had learned from Nauticus’ education specialist, Peter Leighton, how to make underwater robots that could move and grasp objects.
Leighton returned to show them how to power their own engines. They work in teams to connect the wires between a control box and engine. Then, the plan was to attach a wire to a portable battery and test their efforts. Would the engine run?
Vanessa Hailey is the school’s reading specialist and the club’s sponsor. CHROME, Cooperating Hampton Roads Organizations for Minorities in Engineering, has been a school club for about 15 years. Anyone interested in unusual and hands-on math and science activities is welcome, Hailey said, “It’s awesome how they are so intrigued by how things work.”
Founded in 1983, the non-profit organization based at Old Dominion University provides a pre-college program for about 3,200 students in about 100 Hampton Roads clubs. Its mission, according to Chrome.org, is to increase opportunities for under-represented minorities and female students to enter science, math, engineering and related fields.
Each year, CHROME sponsors a variety of activities, including summer academies, teacher training institutes, scholorships, internships and family programs.
Every two or three weeks, about 15 Landstown Middle students meet. They’ve hosted a variety of guests, including represntatives from Jefferson Lab, NASA, the Virginia Air & Space Center and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Leighton said Nauticus reaches out to schools to rasise awareness about all areas of science, history and social sciences, and to introduce students to careers in those fields. “Our programs are here to supplement what the students are learning every day at school,” he said.
Sixth-grader Emma Smith said, “I really like to see how math and science work together.”
During Leighton’s visit, the group learned the difference between positive and negative wires. “This wire is the lifeline of your vehicle,” Leighton told them. Students went to work, armed with electrical tap, screwdrivers, wire strippers and cutters.
Leighton offered safety tips and showed them how to strip down the wires. “It’s kind of like peeling a Twizzler,” he said.
Club President Mark Peltonen was eager to succeed. “It takes a lot of very good communication between our team members,” said the seventh-grader, who aspires one day to be a Navy pilot.
Eighth-grader Tim Duke agreed. “You get more work done, and it’s more efficient.”
Mark’s group was the first to test their efforts by flipping the switch. All four boys had intense looks on their faces as Leighton said “go.” As they all smiled, the engine’s propeller turned.
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