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      Students win national award for volunteering

      Most of us would probably like to forget our high school years, but a few students at Dollar Bay High School have an experience they will never forget.

      Twenty-five students make up the Student Organization of Aquatic Robotics, or SOAR, and have been awarded the national Hartzog Award for volunteer service. The students developed a robot for Isle Royale National Park to keep an eye on the threatening zebra mussel population in Lake Superior.

      "Zebra mussels come in and they layer over your native mussels," explained Park Superintendent, Phyllis Green. "When they reproduce in high rates, they kill them. So, we're really concerned about them moving from the Lake Superior basin into the interior lakes."

      After Isle Royale contacted SOAR, the students began creating prototypes.

      "It was a whole lot of trial and error," said senior, Tom Dunstan. "Hardly anything that I can think of worked on the first try. It was: try this, look up how to fix what we just did wrong. We burnt out a wire, replace it with a new one within ten minutes or so and keep trying."

      Eventually, they constructed a complex robot that would impress even the brightest of engineers.

      "Programming is basically what makes it work, but physically what makes it work are our bilge pump motors, a lot of wiring, a lot of electrical tape," Dunstan explained. "There's a ton of components in it. If you were to get into all of them, we'd be here for a long time talking."

      The robot was created and designed entirely by students. It's able to be maneuvered around using a controller, and it can even take video. The next step is creating an app.

      "We're working with Michigan Tech now to get that app down, and we're looking at actually streaming our video," Dunstan said. "So, once we get the video coming in, we can immediately broadcast it, and whoever wants to watch it can connect to our computer and watch it."

      The project will be passed down to new students who take the class and keep improving.

      The students involved in SOAR are:

      Damon Boyd

      Brett Houle

      Abigail Kangas

      Meagan Kangas

      Stanley Peterson

      Cameron Ringler

      Zachary Saari

      Nate Tervo

      Xena Cortez

      William Hrabinsky

      Monica Kangas

      Erica LeClaire

      Dylan Harma

      Thomas Dunstan

      Tyler Jarvi

      Carl Kangas

      Reece Nye

      Samantha Richards

      Justin Rogan

      Cole Stout

      Jacob Westphal

      Brady Erickson

      Victoria Kangas

      Barbara Willis-Jordan

      Trevor LeBlanc