Two north-east schools have performed strongly in an international underwater robotics competition, finishing in the top 20 teams from across the globe.
The teams, from Mintlaw Academy and Robert Gordon’s College, competed in the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre’s 2016 ROV international final in the United States, which took place at the end of June.
They secured their places in the international final after taking the top spots in the Scottish final, which is co-ordinated and hosted by Robert Gordon University (RGU), with around 600 teams competing at various other regional competitions.
Out of the 39 teams from around the world taking part in the Ranger Class of the competition, the Robert Gordon’s College pupils finished in thirteenth place, while the Mintlaw team took the nineteenth spot.
This year’s contest focused on the similarities in technologies for use in the ocean and those used in outer space, with the pupils travelling to the NASA Johnson Space Centre’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) in Houston to compete using ROVs they designed and built during the past school year.
Jack Noble, a sixth year pupil at Robert Gordon’s College, said: “Competing at NASA’s NBL offered a unique opportunity to see behind the scenes of the pool where astronauts train for space walks – with the pool containing a mock-up of the International Space Station. We all really enjoyed the chance to meet the different teams and see how they tackled the task of designing and building an ROV for space and subsea.
“During the pool run, both ROV and team performed well. We were able to record the temperature of a flow of water, return oil samples from the seabed, record and analyse coral samples and observe sunken CubeSats. Our presentation to NASA and MATE judges was strong and we were given useful, positive feedback.”
The Robert Gordon’s College team also collaborated with Mintlaw Academy, sharing tools and helping troubleshoot problems.
Jack added: “We have all really enjoyed ourselves and have cherished this once in a lifetime experience to compete at NASA with our ROV. The opportunity to meet teams from around the world and compete in such an iconic location, like NASA's NBL, was incredible.”
Team mate Andrew Webb said: "The competition has been a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and further international relations."
The major STEM initiative aims to inspire future engineers through hands-on experience of designing ROVs used underwater in the oil and gas, defence, oceanology and marine renewables industries.
BP North Sea has been a major sponsor of the Scottish regional competition since its launch in 2008, with Subsea UK joining the company as headline sponsor for the second year. Additional funding is provided by ROVOP and The Underwater Centre in Fort William.
Communications Office | Placement student