Three Florida Keys Community College students can rest a little easier now following an intense week marking the culmination of a two-semester research, design and building challenge called Perseus.
The program, sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Rapid Reaction Technology Office, brought undergraduate student teams from four universities to FKCC's Key West campus for the second year running.
Their mission: to create an underwater vehicle capable of locating and analyzing simulated explosives submerged 40 feet beneath the water's surface, in the college's dive lagoon, in a recently held demonstration.
The objective of Perseus is to determine whether a party with modest resources and, in a relatively short period of time, could assemble an Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV), Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) or Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) capable of conducting a specified mission.
It also provides a venue for students to demonstrate their multidisciplinary science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills.
At first, the FKCC team seemed at a relative disadvantage -- consisting of only three freshmen and sophomores in the non-engineering disciplines of computer science, marine environmental technology, and diving.
The other teams were larger and comprised juniors and seniors majoring in fields such as electrical, mechanical and ocean engineering from larger universities -- specifically, Florida Atlantic University, Georgia Tech, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Stevens Institute of Technology.
For many of those students, Perseus was their capstone senior project.
Nevertheless, the FKCC team was confident in their recently reworked creation dubbed the "Hammerhead."
They initially designed a submersible device, but waterproofing, buoyancy control and engineering agile navigation presented many challenges -- as many of the teams experienced.
"We abandoned that concept about two weeks ago and went with the wind," said FKCC diving student Justin Gabbard. The team cleverly opted for a simpler surface-skimming design with above- and below-water components.
"The upper section provides propulsion, geospatial information, altitude placement," explained Gabbard. "The lower section combines high- and low-definition video with imaging sonar that provides target identification."
The device is steered via a wireless navigation system from a laptop computer, which also displays live images and location data. Upon discovery of an object, the students can direct the "Hammerhead" to descend its lower unit for closer investigation and analysis.
After three days of final tweaks, repairs and practice at FKCC, it was time for the student teams to show off their unique devices. On the day of the demonstration, each team was allotted 45 minutes to locate simulated unexploded ordinance (UXOs) of various shapes and sizes that were strewn throughout the college's dive lagoon by the Navy's Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit.
Ultimately, the FKCC team located three UXOs during the exercise. Only one other team, from Stevens Institute of Technology, was able to complete the same feat.
Gabbard praised his Perseus teammates, Ricardo Castro Perez and Jarrett Clark, for their success. "It was a team effort. Our programmer Ricardo is the genius; he programmed it. Jarrett and I built it, wired it and sunk it."
Each earned four college credits for their participation.
"While this activity certainly has a cool factor, it requires the students to put theory into practice by applying advanced technologies learned in STEM programs," said FKCC President Jonathan Gueverra. "The unique devices have applications in many sectors and industries. They also reflect of the quality of education at FKCC as well as the other colleges with which we are collaboratively working."
The Perseus demonstrations, associated presentations and reports will provide Department of Defense and related stakeholders insight into a number of rapidly evolving technical areas of interest through the innovation of America's next generation of engineers and scientists.
Florida Keys Community College held a double graduation ceremony last Friday on the college's Key West campus for its 50th Basic Law Enforcement (BLE) Academy and 46th Corrections Academy.
Upon passing their respective state certification exams, the six BLE Academy graduates will become Florida law enforcement officers and the 19 Corrections Academy graduates will become Florida state corrections officers.
Through sponsorship support from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office, all graduates of the Corrections Academy have secured employment as detention deputies at one of the three detention centers in the Keys.
FKCC Institute for Public Safety Director Marc Halvorson recognized the best and the brightest of each class during the graduation ceremony.
William Kreiss and Natasha Major were recognized for academic excellence.
Sean Moran and Jessie Torrecillas received the "Top Gun" award for their superior shooting skills. Moran also earned the leadership award as did Eric Taull. Elizabeth Manrique and Scott Van Hoesen took the coveted "PIG" award for demonstrating pride, integrity and guts.
Both FKCC's BLE and corrections program satisfy the training requirements of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission.
The college is currently accepting applications for two Basic Law Enforcement academies that begin in 2014. One part-time, evening academy will begin in January at the Upper Keys Center, and the other begins in May at the Middle Keys Center.
For more information about FKCC's Institute for Public Safety, visit http://www.fkcc.edu/academics/criminal-justice.da.
Administration at the Key West Collegiate Academy recently took some time to teach students about the importance of working together through leadership.
"We currently offer several Leadership and Volunteer Public Service courses as electives for our students," said Principal Cory Oliver.
"We want our students to leave our school with a strong awareness of others. Our children need to learn to demonstrate selfless service and dedication to others."
A trip to the beach at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park took place on Nov. 22.
Historic Tours of America donated two trolleys for the school to use to transport students safely to the beach. Several parents and community members were on hand to volunteer to cook food or donate items.
Teacher Tom Rompella led many leadership-based activities for the students including "supermarket, this or that, and the human knot."
All students who take the leadership classes are expected to volunteer each week at Gerald Adams Elementary, or at Florida Keys Community College in labs or in the art department to gain knowledge and experience as well as provide a great service to their community.
Photos special to The Citizen
The Montessori Children's School of Key West celebrated Thanksgiving on campus last week with a traditional feast prepared by parents and family members. Students in both the toddler and primary programs sang Thanksgiving songs and dressed up like Pilgrims and Native Americans.
Left, Sarah and Sophia Langley are dressed as Native Americans. Right, pilgrim Alice O'Connor is seen with her mom, Samantha Paterson.
Stanley Switlik Elementary School has partnered with the Dolphin Research Center to bring a marine science program to every student.
Programs include lessons about animal adaptations, mangroves, animal classification and food chains to promote science in the classroom.
The center is providing the lessons to Stanley Switlik, which will be followed by a field trip to the Dolphin Research Center.
This program was made possible by the citizens of Marathon.
Sponsors included Jeff and Beth Pinkus, Sue Corbin, Chris and Cindy Bull, Jason and Kate Koler, Raymond Poole, Jeff and Leslie Ryder, Frank and Judy Greenman, Toni Appell, Robert Beacham, Pam Bauer, Sean and Heather Kirwan, John and Karen Wolfe, Barb Rodgers, Steve and Karen McKeon, Charlie and Leslie Miller, Tom and Barb Wright, John and Gigi Harrison, William and Katrina Wiatt, David and JoAnne Grego, Pen Bennett, John and Marlene Bartus, Doug Mader, Jeff Smith, Pete Chapman, Jimmy Gagliardini, Teresa Condas, Jim and Jan Dorl, Forrest Young, Ben Daughtry, and Scott Corbin.