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ASD STEM Initiative Realizes Success at SeaPerch Competition

ASD students participate in SeaPerch 2023. Courtesy photo

Students from American School for the Deaf in West Hartford successfully participated in the SeaPerch Competition at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury.

ASD students participate in SeaPerch 2023. Courtesy photo


The American School for the Deaf (ASD) is proud to share news of recently expanded STEM programming that has been in the works for many years.

The ROV (remotely operated vehicle) program started during the 2015-2016 school year as a follow-up to the Hydrophone Project, which saw University of Connecticut’s Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence-Technology (COSEE-TEK), University of Cincinnati, Project Oceanology, and Mystic Aquarium working alongside ASD students to build an underwater device that detects and records ocean sounds. Students’ interest in oceanic STEM projects piqued. Influenced and guided by this enthusiasm and intellectual curiosity, the ROV project was born, further enhancing ASD’s STEM Initiative.

That same year, a grant was secured from the Barnes Foundation to support the building of kit ROVs. During the 2017- 2018 school year, the Barnes Foundation funded a project that allowed students to design and build their own creations, rather than kit models. This allowed students to enter prestigious ROV competitions such as those presented by SeaPerch, an “innovative underwater robotics program that equips students, educators, and parents with the resources they need to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle.” (seaperch.org)

STEM initiatives are especially critical for deaf and hard of hearing learners because these students do not as easily absorb terms and concepts shared through ambient information such as radio, television, and background conversations. This is especially true for STEM related concepts that are often technical in nature. Through ASD’s STEM Initiative, teachers introduced new terminology and concepts to broaden the conceptual knowledge of our students, which allowed them to engage in scientific research and increase their STEM fluency.

When ASD first started entering the SeaPerch ROV competitions, they competed against mainstream schools, which posed a communication access issue. However, SeaPerch “aims to reduce traditional barriers to robotics programs” (seaperch.org), and decided to partner with ASD to plan and organize competitions exclusively for schools for the deaf. The first was held in 2020 just before the Covid-19 pandemic struck. In 2021 the competition was held virtually. In 2022 and 2023, the event was finally able to be held in person at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury. This most recent event was held this past February and was the biggest yet, with 41 teams from 12 schools for the deaf participating.

The ASD STEM Initiative is based on the premise that students, especially those with disabilities, can achieve a high degree of STEM literacy through hands-on experiments within authentic learning environments. The initiative is designed as a community of students, teachers, and mentor scientists working together to achieve a common outcome. It includes an integrated curriculum in a communicatively accessible environment. Commitment to this STEM Initiative has paid off- ASD students placed 2nd and 3rd out of 41 teams last weekend at the SeaPerch competition. And that’s not all- our robotics teams will be advancing to Worlds in Texas this spring!

Founded in 1817 as the nation’s first permanent school for the deaf and special education school, the American School for the Deaf is a comprehensive learning community that welcomes all deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing children with unique communication needs. We develop the whole child – intellectually, emotionally, physically, and socially. ASD is a leader in providing innovative programs and services for deaf and hard of hearing students, empowering them to become educated and self-directed lifelong learners. For more information, please visit www.asd-1817.org.

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