Mintlaw Academy come out on top in annual ROV competition

Mintlaw Academy has come out on top in an annual competition which sees pupils from across Scotland put underwater robots they have designed and built to the test.

Mintlaw Academy ROV 2016The Scottish leg of the MATE ROV challenge, co-ordinated and hosted by Robert Gordon University (RGU), saw 11 schools put underwater robots they have designed and built to the test on Thursday, March 31 at RGU’s Sir Ian Wood Building.

The Mintlaw team emerged victorious, after a panel of industry experts scored the teams on how well they completed the missions, as well as taking into consideration the technical reports, poster displays, and engineering presentations the pupils were required to produce. It is the third time the school has won the competition.

Robert Gordon’s College placed second, with Banff Academy in third, while Keith Grammar School took the technical prize. Portlethen Academy was awarded the Encouragement for Future Development award and Craigmount High School, from Edinburgh, picked up the teamwork award.

The major STEM initiative aims to inspire future engineers through hands-on experience of designing remotely operated vehicles (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.

The RGU event is one of 24 regional heats held around the world by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre in California and will see the winning school team travel to compete in this year’s international final which will be held at the NASA Johnson Space Centre's Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, Texas in June. 

Joanne McDonald, team leader of the Mintlaw Academy team, said: "It’s amazing, it’s taking a bit of time to sink in. As the prizes were being announced we started to think that we hadn’t even placed so we are all so surprised.

“All our hard work has paid off. We’re going to Houston!"

She added: “The competition has been great – it has been good working as a team and getting a taste of real life engineering. There’s a few new members on the team this year and I’m really pleased with how everything has come together.”

ROV 2016Ali Hynd, technical teacher at Mintlaw Academy, said: "It is totally unexpected. The ROV actually broke as they were putting it in the pool so there was a question mark over whether it was going to happen at all but I’m over the moon for the kids – it is all their hard work.”

Senior RGU electrical engineering lecturer and competition co-ordinator, Graeme Dunbar, said: “The competition went extremely well, it has been a brilliant day. The pupils have obviously done a lot of hard work to get to this stage and it is great to see the standards continuing to improve year on year.

“It has been good to welcome some new teams to the competition this year and good to see a real mix of ages from the schools. Congratulations to the Mintlaw Academy team who are very deserving winners and to all who took part.”

He added: “A huge thank you to all our sponsors – BP, Subsea UK, ROVOP and The Underwater Centre – without whom none of this could happen.”

Tim Smith, Vice President Communications & External Affairs for BP North Sea, said: “The ROV design competition has become a real highlight in the engineering calendar and BP is delighted to once again support RGU with this excellent initiative. The MATE ROV challenge offers pupils a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the oil and gas industry and supports BP’s strategy to develop capability and talent in the STEM subjects.”

Subsea UK chief executive, Neil Gordon, said: “The MATE ROV competition is a great way to inspire the next generation and expose them to the subsea industry through realistic, hands-on experience. Despite the current challenges, we must take a long term approach to skills and work hard to engage with those who will drive our sector forward in years to come.

“If we don’t continue to attract, train and develop young people, we will not have the talent required to support the future of one of the world’s most important industries.”

RGC ROV 2016Steven Gray, chief executive of ROVOP, said: “The MATE ROV competition is a valuable and fun initiative for both participating students and companies, like ROVOP, who support the programme.  The development of our personnel and investment in future talent is vital to our strategy to sustain and grow our business. 

“Later this year we intend to recruit our second graduate, who will undertake a two year placement programme. Our involvement in schemes like MATE ROV provides us with an excellent opportunity to meet future industry talent.” 

Steven Cullen, ROV Operations Manager at The Underwater Centre, said: “We are delighted to participate in and support the MATE ROV competition. We see the competition as an excellent medium to encourage young people, locally and internationally, to pursue the myriad of opportunities in the fields of science, technology and environmental stewardship of the world’s oceans, not only as a career but as a lifelong interest.”

With NASA and Oceaneering Space Systems (OSS) looking to make use of ROVs which can operate in the harsh environments of both the deep ocean and outer space, this year’s missions were scenarios inspired by inner and outer space.

These included operating in the ocean on Europa under its ice sheet to collect data and deploy instrumentation; finding and recovering critical equipment that sank in the Gulf of Mexico after a recent series of testing programs; photographing and collecting samples of deep water corals to assess their health post Deepwater Horizon oil spill; and preparing a wellhead for decommission and conversion into an artificial reef. 

To date, Scottish MATE ROV has worked with 536 pupils from 34 schools over the past nine years.

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Jenny RushCommunications Officer | Design and Technology