Building bots beneath the water

Island students and future engineers participate in weeklong robotics summer camp with WHOI engineer.


The Great Pond Foundation held its third annual summer STEM camp this past week for students in grades 6 to 12 to build remotely operated vehicles (ROV) with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) research engineer and Island native Megan Carroll.

From July 29 to August 2, students built and tested the ROVs. Carroll helped students assemble the components from kits, work in teams, and learn problem-solving. “I also incorporate different learning modules … to give them more information,” Carroll said.

The robot kits are made of PVC pipe, motors, propellors, and a control box. Students cut, solder, and piece together the components during the weeklong camp.

On the Friday the campers put their ROVs into the water at the YMCA swimming pool. The ROVs were then tested with an obstacle course.

Carroll was awarded a Vineyard Vision Fellowship, an award given to education and professional leaders who are committed to the environment and social sustainability of the Island.

She will use her award to expand on the ROV summer program, offering underwater robotics to students during the school year. 

Carroll’s passion for engineering began at a young age. While she was a 10-year-old student at the Tisbury School, her science teacher organized a trip for students to WHOI. She remembers watching footage of the underwater discovery of the Titanic in the Redfield Auditorium and being amazed by it. (It was Robert Ballard, while he was at WHOI, who was involved in the discovery of the famous shipwreck.)

As Carroll got older, her passion for engineering brought her to college, where she helped build a NASA rocket to test how fruit flies operate in microgravity, and eventually back home to the Island and WHOI. Since she achieved her dream and found her passion, Carroll hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers.

“I just remember as a kid being really fascinated by that,” Carroll said. “It’s also just about bringing the awareness to kids, because at that young age they’re not thinking seriously about what their career is going to be, but it’s something that can have an impact on them.”

While the camp is offered to a wide range of students from middle school up to high school, Carroll wants to use her fellowship to focus on younger students with the hope that she can spark interest early on. Once those students get to high school, they might continue to pursue robotics.

“I always try to encourage kids — building, it’s fun,” Carroll said. “I use some of my experience, and downsize it to teach kids and get them engaged and excited about STEM.”