Verona Area High School students gathered around the pool for a competition March 12.

But it wasn’t a swim meet, and despite its name – SeaPerch – it had nothing to do with fish.

The SeaPerch competition brings students together to test remotely operated robotic vehicles, according to the organization’s website. The robots are engineered to be used underwater.

This year was the first time VAHS hosted the South Central Wisconsin regional SeaPerch competition, high school teacher Hope Mikkelson told the Press.

Mikkelson is an advisor for the Verona teams as well as a science teacher and Science Club Advisor. Rick Boehm is the VAHS engineering teacher and a SeaPerch advisor, as well.

With the help of Verona Aquatic Center Director Angie Lucas, the school welcomed 13 teams participating from four other schools – Kickapoo (Viola), Hillsboro, Oregon and Sun Prairie.

A Verona team won first place and will go on to the SeaPerch International Challenge June 4-5, which will be held virtually this year. The same team also won last year, but didn’t get to attend the International Challenge as it was canceled because of COVID-19. All four first-place team members are VAHS seniors.

The winning team members are Christopher Lofts, Trey Standiford, Ben Wellnitz and Jackson Puent.

The teams built an obstacle course for their robots in the school’s pool, Mikkelson said.

This year was difficult for the competitors, as due to the nature of the pandemic, advisors were not able to work in-person with the teams, she said.

The program is intended to help students learn about basic science and engineering concepts and tool safety in a hands-on way, according to SeaPerch’s website. The program also provides team-building and problem-solving skills, it states.

Neal Patten can be contacted at