Mintlaw Academy team gears up for annual underwater robotic challenge

The 2013 Scottish champions from Mintlaw Academy
The 2013 Scottish champions from Mintlaw Academy

A team from Mintlaw Academy is hoping to defend the school’s title in the UK’s only Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) challenge for school children next month.

Robert Gordon University (RGU), in Aberdeen, coordinates the Scottish final of the annual Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre competition, which sees school teams design and build their own underwater robot before battling it out in a series of missions for the chance to compete in the international final held in the U.S.

This year’s MATE Scotland ROV Challenge will take place on Thursday, April 3, at RGU’s Garthdee campus with more than a dozen schools taking part, ranging from Alness to Edinburgh.

The 2014 MATE challenge highlights the role that ROVs play in exploring and documenting shipwrecks, studying sinkholes, and conserving national maritime heritage sites, with teams expected to complete missions based around these elements using the ROV they have constructed.

The winning Scottish school team will travel alongside RGU’s successful student team to the international final in June where they will compete against the winners of more than 20 other regional competitions around the world.Mintlaw Academy, who won the Scottish final last year, are returning to Garthdee with hopes of bringing home the title once again.

Reflecting on the experience, Liam Forbes, a member of last year’s team, said: “We decided to enter the competition as it sounded like a fun challenge and a great opportunity to learn new skills and to have new experiences.

“The whole team thoroughly enjoyed the trip to America for the international competition, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity and it was really interesting to hear the stories of the teams and engineers from the other countries.”

He added: “The most challenging aspect for us was getting the buoyancy on the ROV correctly balanced so it was almost neutral. The competition has improved our teamwork skills and given us a better idea of the work done and the career opportunities in the ROV sector.”

Engineering lecturer Graeme Dunbar, who leads RGU’s involvement in the event, said: “The ROV schools competition is always a lot of fun and it has been great to see its popularity continue to grow year on year since we first started running it in 2008. We look forward to welcoming all the schools to RGU in April and wish them all the very best of luck in the competition.”