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A GROUP of talented Buchan secondary pupils will do battle in Seattle after winning a prestigious technology challenge.

The lads from Mintlaw Academy triumphed over their counterparts from Aberdeen city and shire in the Scottish regional final of an annual international ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) design challenge at Robert Gordon University.

After a day of practical exercises and assessments the Mintlaw students emerged winners - booking their place in the world finals to be held in the States in June.

It was the all the more incredible as this was the first time S4 pupils Kieran Yule, David Finnie, Liam Forbes, Douglas Leel and Gareth Swinnie had entered the challenge.

Sponsored by Bill Mackie Engineering Ltd, Duthie Motors from Longside and James Roberson at the Plumb Centre, the team have been practicing their ROV design in Peterhead’s diving pool supervised by technical teacher Ali Hind.

He told the Buchanie: “Mintlaw Academy is very proud of the dedication and passion this group of five young engineers have shown, demonstrating, a large amount of problem solving skills, and an ability to apply their knowledge from around the curriculum to this task.

“ROV Mate, BP and RGU have created an amazing opportunity for these boys to visit and compete in the international final in Seattle. The team will be in the pool over the coming weeks and months improving there skills to be ready to compete in the USA.”

Taking place in the RGU: SPORT swimming pool, this year’s challenge highlighted the theme of ‘Ocean Observing’ and saw the pupils take on a mission to monitor the oceans weather system which can affect seabed mining and operations.

The competition brief stated that the ROVs should be designed to detect underwater earthquakes and monitor hydrothermal vents – underwater geysers that pour out extremely hot water.

The regional competition is the only one of its type in Europe and is co-ordinated each year by Robert Gordon University (RGU) in conjunction with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre in California, USA.

The competition challenges school pupils, and university students from all over the world to design and build ROVs to tackle missions modeled after scenarios from the ocean workplace.

In addition to the Mintlaw group, pupils from Bucksburn, Dyce, Inverurie and Kemnay academies, plus Robert Gordon’s College, along with their peers from the Highlands, Dundee and Stirling, were hard at work over the past six months constructing their ROVs from scratch.

Using their ROVs, pupils completed various underwater mission tasks and technical reports, and were assessed in engineering presentations, technical reports and poster displays.

Working ROV and subsea professionals from companies including BP, Subsea 7, i-Tech (a division of Subsea 7), and DOF Subsea also volunteered their time and technical expertise as mentors and competition judges.

The MATE Centre organises the international competition, now in its 12th year, which sees a network of 21 regional ROV contests taking place across the US, Canada, Japan, Hong Kong and Egypt. Student teams from primary and secondary schools, colleges and universities team up with industry professionals to participate in the challenge, which comprises two different levels according to the sophistication of the ROVs – Ranger and Explorer Class.

The event also provided an opportunity for the RGU student team, ‘Subsea Kinetics’ to demonstrate their readiness to go forward to the Explorer Class international final.

Mintlaw Academy will travel with the university team on the trip of a lifetime to the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Seattle, Washington for the world finals from June 20-22.

Grant Maxwell, associate head of the School of Engineering at RGU, commented: “This event is the culmination of a great deal of hard work by all of the teams, as well as by their teachers and mentors. We are always very impressed by the amount of effort which has been put into the design and implementation of the ROVs.

“The competition is a great opportunity for all participants to experience the challenges of solving engineering problems in real-life scenarios. To be successful, they have to work as a team so that they can combine their skills. We are very keen for school pupils to apply their technical skills in this area and we hope it will encourage them to consider a career in engineering.”

Principal sponsorship for the Scottish regional final was provided by BP North Sea with additional sponsors Enquest. DOF Subsea also contributed underwater cameras to the competition.

Lynne Staples-Scott, corporate responsibility manager for BP North Sea, added: “We are delighted to be working with RGU on this initiative which will support our strategy to develop capability and talent in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects in Scotland and in the oil and gas industry.”