There was a flurry of activity around the Chinquapin Park pool one recent Friday morning as the Alexandria Country Day School sixth graders tested the SeaPerch Remotely Operated Vehicles they built in science class.  Students ran their SeaPerch ROVs through an underwater obstacle course, attempted to pick up balls at the bottom of the pool, and tried to rescue ducks floating atop the surface.

As with many first-time trials, the students quickly discovered that there were several pool-side adjustments that needed to be made to optimize their vehicle’s performance.  Having spent the prior two weeks building the SeaPerch ROVs from scratch including soldering wires into the control box and building the motors, the sixth graders knew just what to do and were able to quickly make adjustments so their SeaPerch ROVs could successfully complete the challenges.

“Each year the students bring something new to the project, and this year they really impressed me with their innovative designs and terrific teamwork, “said teacher Scott Lieberman.  “I loved watching the students work together, whether it was to fix a broken motor or navigate the obstacle course.”

ACDS students build these SeaPerch ROVs each year as part of the sixth grade science curriculum. The students begin with an introduction to Design Thinking and build prototypes of their ROVs. While building the SeaPerch they learn about buoyancy, soldering, electronics, and other engineering principles associated with aquatic vessels. Throughout the entire project Mr. Lieberman emphasized the importance of good communication, collaboration, critical thinking and perseverance. As he often told the class, “mistakes are nothing more than a temporary setback and a authentic learning opportunity.”

The sixth graders’ work received a short feature on WUSA9 News.  Watch it here.

This week, first graders completed their first open ended STEM project – designing, building and testing containers with a handle that could carry at least three apples for a distance of ten steps. For the first part of the project, students investigated the size and weight of apples and the various materials they could use to build their containers. Then, each first grader brainstormed four ideas for containers that followed our criteria. The next part of the design process saw the children working in groups of three or four to decide on one plan to use. To do this in the allotted time, each child listened as other group members presented their ideas and decided upon either one plan or a combination of several plans. The children really stepped up to the plate with this and each group came up with a single design to build.  On Thursday, first graders worked together to build their apple containers, and then today we tested them. All of the containers not only met the challenge of carrying three apples successfully, they were able to carry five apples for the distance, and two containers even carried eight apples before the containers broke! It was a very successful endeavor for our first grade engineers!

On Wednesday, November 1st, an intrepid team of Alexandria Country Day School fourth through eighth graders were among approximately 160 students from seven area independent schools to complete for the ABC League Cross Country Championship.  At the conclusion of the grueling two-mile course, the ACDS girls team was victorious.  The top five ACDS runners were Claire Engelhardt, Gabriela Ros, Shiane Heiber, Alban Erdle, and Laura Duffield.  While these five girls certainly ran with incredible grit and determination, the entire girls team ran personal best times. The ACDS boys missed coming in first by only one point.. However, ACDS’s Baden Reynolds came in first overall after a very exciting finish to edge out his closest competitor.