By Jason KUROSU
Last year, members of Clark Magnet High’s marine science research program won the Lexus Eco Challenge for their discovery of heavy metal pollutants in the California lobster population. This year, they are making another run at the Eco Challenge, beginning with the launch ceremony of their marine robot “Johnny Lex,” which will navigate protected and unprotected areas off Anacapa Island.
The Lexus Eco Challenge, a nationwide project intended to encourage student interest in environmental issues, won the team involved with last year’s eco challenge a $70,000 prize (Clark was one of only two schools in the nation to win). Marine Science teacher Dominique Evans-Bye and her team showcased Johnny Lex, a P4 CD 300 BASE Commercial Dive remote operation vehicle – ROV – system Tuesday morning. Students, teachers, administrators including Superintendent Dick Sheehan and GUSD school board president Joylene Wagner, Clark Principal Doug Dall and local Lexus dealer Johnny Harrison, a benefactor of Clark’s specialized science programs, were in attendance for the ceremony.
Harrison was first given the controls of his namesake Johnny Lex. Harrison maneuvered the robot in an inflatable pool with a modified video game controller, getting a feel for the robot’s side-to-side movement along with its depth controls, as well as controlling the camera features on the robot, which can take video or still photos.
The ROV is an updated model of the marine robot the students used to win their first eco challenge, along with a host of other projects, including detecting earthquake hazards and even aiding the police in locating a drowning victim.
“They said we changed the way they operated as a search and rescue team,” said Dall at the ceremony.
The next step for Johnny Lex was two trips to Anacapa Island, one on Nov. 30 and again on Dec. 7.