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Remora News & Events


April 30, 2016  

Underwater Robot Competition Offers
Impressive Display of Technical and Design Skills

Gray's Reef Team Ocean volunteer divers setting up the course.

Gray's Reef Team Ocean volunteer divers setting up the course.
Photo: Brian Greer Photography

Sixteen student teams from middle, junior and high schools competed in the 2016 Gray's Reef Southeast Regional MATE ROV Competition. After a full day, seven-time regional champion Carrollton High School, Carrollton, GA won the right to advance to the internationals, which will be held in June at NASA Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston. Carrollton HS, located near Atlanta, has fielded strong teams that have placed as high as ninth in the global competition, and its team InnovOcean holds high hopes of taking home the top prize this year. Students from various locations including Canada, Russia, Hong Kong and Scotland will oppose team InnovOcean.

1st Place Navigator class organizing their table.

1st Place Navigator class - Silver Arrow - organizing their table.
Photo: Brian Greer Photography

Beginning in 2004, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary partnered with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center to offer underwater robotics as a vehicle to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

To the lucky observer, the event is an inspiring display of young talent, skill and salesmanship. The ROV competition requires students to build tethered underwater robots -- called Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) - from the ground up, and then challenges them to perform tasks simulating real-world operations conducted by exploration organizations like NOAA's National Marine Sanctuaries, other marine agencies worldwide and NASA. Teams are able to choose from four different classes of competition defined by skill level, not age, which further illustrates real-world circumstances. Only the Explorer and Ranger classes are eligible to compete at Internationals. The Navigator class is intermediate level, and the Scout class is entry level.

The competition demands excellence from well-rounded teams. In order to win, teams not only must build and successfully pilot an underwater robot, they have to create a company to market and sell their ROV. Students prepare posters, product spec sheets, safety procedures, design abstracts, business cards and presentations to working professionals who serve as contest judges.

Two Atlanta Schools competing.

Carrollton Middle School Intersteller & winners Scout class Team Fusion of McClure competing.
Photo: Brian Greer Photography

Led by Jody Patterson, Events Coordinator at Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, staff and sanctuary volunteers organized the regional competition and created simulated workplace scenarios for the ROV pilots. This year's regionals focused on innerspace ROV tasks, including recovering equipment, conducting forensic fingerprinting of oil spills, analyzing deepwater studies of corals and capping wellheads of oil rigs.

The sanctuary's Team Ocean volunteer divers worked all day with NOAA divers to continually set up the underwater task components. Other volunteers served as judges and safety inspectors.

Carrollton HS InnovOcean celebrates their win!.

Carrollton HS InnovOcean celebrates their win! On to NASA!
Photo: Gray's Reef NMS

"It is a privilege to host the Southeast Regional ROV competition each year," said Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary Superintendent Sarah Fangman. "To properly protect marine life and special areas like Gray's Reef, we need tools to help us explore and understand the mysteries of the ocean. These students -- future engineers and scientists -- will create the next generation of instruments used at NOAA, NASA and the maritime industries."

2016 Participating Schools:

  • The STEM Academy at Bartlett, Savannah
       (Named the #1 STEM middle school in the nation in January, 2016)
  • Robert W. Groves High School, Savannah
  • Glynn Middle School, Brunswick
  • North Paulding High School, Dallas
  • Pope High School, Marietta
  • Jasper County Middle School, Monticello
  • Carrollton High School, Carrollton
  • Carrollton Jr. High School, Carrollton) (2 teams)
  • Carrollton Middle School, Carrollton (3 teams)
  • Sammy McClure Middle School, Dallas (3 teams)


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