Ocean Quest Team makes XPRIZE Semi-Final Round


Valley Christian Schools “Ocean Quest” team is one of 21 semi-finalists competing in the $7 Million Shell Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, a global competition challenging teams to push the boundaries of ocean exploration technology for rapid, unmanned and high-resolution ocean mapping. While over 32 teams initially pitched designs to enter the competition, only 21 semi-finalist teams advanced, with Ocean Quest the only team selected comprised almost entirely of precollege-age, applied math science and engineering students.

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Using underwater robotics and high-resolution mapping and imaging systems, teams must overcome the seemingly impossible obstacles of ocean mapping that have plagued scientists for years. The competition is part of XPRIZE’s 10-year Ocean Initiative to address critical ocean challenges and help make the oceans healthy, valued, and understood. The students with Ocean Quest are hoping to make history with an oceanic technological breakthrough, all while studying for their history exams and English finals.

“Our team’s tag line is ‘from deep space to the deepest oceans,’ and it really exemplifies the world of possibilities STEM can open up for students,” says Danny Kim, Director of Innovation for the Quest Institute for Quality Education. “Our end goal is not only to provide a unique design to solve the XPRIZE challenge, but also to create a platform so that other schools can be inspired to learn STEM through ocean science.”

The students have been relying heavily on Microsoft products to help with the software design, utilizing their advanced operating systems such as Windows 10 IoT, Windows Server, as well the Microsoft Azure cloud platform to conduct all of the data gathering and analysis. Students from Ocean Quest previously teamed up with Microsoft to create a platform for sending experiments to the International Space Station as part of the Quest for Space program, a program that is now in 23 schools around the world.

“We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our ocean floor,” says Kim. “Talk about underdogs, our young students are competing against multi-national Ph.D. researchers with well-funded companies and universities backing them.”

As teams around the world gear up to deploy their deep-solutions in the competition later this fall, the students are hard at work to make their dreams of deep sea exploration a reality. “Through the Ocean Discovery XPRIZE, we have an unprecedented opportunity to create next generation tools, technologies and techniques that will illuminate deep-sea wonders and unlock a new era of ocean exploration,” said Jyotika Virmani, Ph.D., prize lead and senior director with XPRIZE’s Energy and Environment Group. “We look forward to seeing the teams’ innovative approaches come to life over the next 10 months.”