LAFAYETTE – David Thibodaux STEM Academy has taken the plunge into a whole new world of technology education. The school’s four underwater robotics teams have quickly risen to national prominence.
The Aquatic Robotics team made up of mostly upperclassmen recently won the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) competition in Alabama last month. The team is a coed group of seven Thibodaux students who compete in MATE’s ranger division.
The students are sponsored by a number of Lafayette area businesses. Chris LeBlanc is the team’s leader. “Underwater is a very different thing,” LeBlanc said. “Not only is it a different thing, it’s also a completely different type of a challenge.”
The goal of teams competing in MATE is to complete tasks that mimic real-life engineering issues in a fifteen-minute time frame. “So, they had a series of tasks related to inspecting a dam, removing trash, repairing certain things, dealing with wildlife,” LeBlanc said.
“We had to learn to work with each other a lot better because we only had fifteen minutes,” said LeBlanc’s son Ethan, who’s helped build the team’s robot “Betty” since its inception back in January.
In the span of three months, the seven teens became real-life engineers, building a technology company from the ground up by electing a CEO, CFO and a team of engineers. LeBlanc says the team building has helped bring the students closer together.
“I would say even more than all that, it teaches them how to work with each other. When adversity struck and they had to come through, they couldn’t start pointing fingers. They had to actually work together.”
?Next up for Aquatic Robotics will be competing in MATE’s international competition in Tennessee this June.