Skip to main content

High School Teacher Goes Beyond Books

Jeannine Huenemann


View as a pdf

GEAR UP summer camps offer both students and teachers a way to learn new skills and level up on their learning for the coming year. We know that these sorts of activities have a direct impact on students, but a story published by Utah State University featured Clearfield High School teacher Jill Kennedy. She took learning to the next level by bringing summer camp activities back to her classroom this fall.

A functioning UROV built by students.
GEAR UP teacher brings UROV robot project from summer camp to challenge her advanced engineering students

Kennedy, an engineering and computer science teacher at Clearfield High School, came to our USU STARS! Engineering Camp in 2019. While at camp, she worked alongside high school students, learning how to build and operate UROVs (underwater remotely operated vehicles). Her experiences were featured in a news story by the Quinney College of Natural Resources. Traci Hillyard, a public information officer, compiled the article “Robot Invasion.” It talks about Kennedy’s lessons, teaching her students how “projects they could actually build might have an impact on real-world applications —like measuring water quality with remotely operated submarines.”

The article tells how “Kennedy was so intrigued by the project, she pursued funding to buy equipment (special batteries and motor controllers) to let her high school advanced engineering students take a stab at making the robots for themselves. These devices are more than your run-of-the-mill land-variety robot. They have to be able to move under water – left to right, and up and down – and require the operator to have a working knowledge of buoyancy, pond ecology and water quality.”

Kennedy chose to continue with the project because, as she said “Students that are involved in robotics have a lot more hands-on experience with a lot of skills that engineering companies need. Because when engineers go to college, they never have to touch power tools, they never have to actually build anything by the time they get out.”

She improved on the summer activity by adding “several additional devices [that] were attached to the UROVs, including a light and temperature meter, a device to measure water depth, a device to take water samples at depth, and a GoPro to capture video of underwater conditions.”

The UROVs build during the GEAR UP Engineering Camp are based on Seaperch, an underwater robotics program designed for teachers and students. The project uses readily available and relatively inexpensive components. If this project sounds interesting, and you would like more information on this and other lessons, the USU Water Quality Extension invites you to visit their Stream Side Science curriculum at

Press: Utah State Today