Mizzou’s Students’ Underwater Robotics Foundation (SURF) is a young organization recently established last spring. SURF’s main focus is designing, building and programming a fully autonomous submarine for competition. They work all year to ensure that once the submarine is in the water, it can accomplish each obstacle without any additional help.
While this project is extremely demanding, SURF engineers thought they could be doing much more. Reaching out to local youth, they have used their skills to educate and generate excitement about STEM.
For their most recent event, SURF traveled to Jefferson City’s Mighty Machines showcasing their submarine. They also 3D-printed miniature submarines for students to experiment with in a pool.
SURF co-president Alexandra Yount hopes events like these will change the way kids think about engineering.
“We want to promote and encourage engineering education. For me personally, I think there are stigmas about engineering to those unfamiliar with it. As officers, we’re trying to continue that and reach out to others with the knowledge we have, so they can be encouraged to jump in with engineering,” Yount said.
Last year, the club mentored fifth grade students at Benton Elementary by helping them design ways to trap radio controlled (RC) cars. With limited materials, the students were challenged to think critically, and SURF guided them through the engineering process.
Yount was impressed with the enthusiasm the students had and their ability to accomplish the task.
“The group of fifth graders that I was mentoring came up with some great ideas for their tape trap. They were great at listening to each other, and with some light guidance, [they] cooperated well and accomplished their task of building a working trap for an RC car.”
SURF also volunteers weekly with For Inspiration and Recognition for Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics. Through this group, high school students cultivate programming and design skills to later build a robot.
SURF’s treasurer and co-founder Alexandra Crump enjoys mentoring these students the most.
“One of my favorite memories was just watching the collaboration of a bunch of sophomore and juniors in high school trying to figure out how to do this. Then, they were so excited once they finally got it,” she said.
For SURF, it is about more than winning competitions and building their submarine. These students want to engage the youth around them by showing that engineering is fun. The club is planning on hosting a camp in the spring for upper elementary students and middle schoolers to show kids all the possibilities with engineering.
“The goal is to teach students some basic engineering skills and capture and grow their interest in the STEM field. We’d also like to make them more familiar and comfortable with designing and building their ideas,” said Yount.