Mearns Academy students take part in ROV competition

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PUPILS from Mearns Academy joined students from across the country to take part in the Scottish regional final of an annual international ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) design challenge this week.

Taking place on Wednesday, April 20 in the RGU: SPORT swimming pool, this year’s challenge was themed around the technology and methods that were utilised to seal the oil leak on the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

The student teams had to pilot their ROVs and use the specialist tools they had designed for them to carry out a series of tasks. They had to repair and cap an oil well and then collect biological samples including models of crabs, sea cucumbers and sponges.

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

The MATE Centre co-ordinates the international competition, which sees a network of 20 regional ROV contests taking place across the US, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong.

Student teams from primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities and community organisations participate in the events, which consist of two different classes according to the sophistication of the ROVs – Ranger and Explorer class.

Building on what has largely been a North-east competition in recent years, this year saw students from further afield taking part for the first time. Seven schools from across Scotland took part in the Ranger Class regional final on Wednesday, each having constructed their own ROVs from scratch.

New to the competition were Bannockburn High and Brechin High School. They were joined by regular competitors Mearns Academy, Inverurie Academy, Menzieshill High School, Bucksburn Academy and Robert Gordon’s College.

On the day, it was Menzieshill who stormed to first place. They will now join the university team in travelling to the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston to battle it out for the world title from June 16-18.

The ROV project is part of a wider programme of joint working between Robert Gordon University and industry organisations. Such joint initiatives represent flourishing working relationships which continue to bring significant opportunities to the North-east of Scotland.

Grant Maxwell, Associate Head of the School of Engineering at the University said: “We are very pleased that the ROV competition has grown year on year. We are always very impressed by the enthusiasm of the school pupils and their teachers. The competition has had a positive effect on the teaching of technology in the area and has encouraged more pupils to study technology. Some of our graduates have gone on to work in the ROV industry as a direct result of this competition.”

Colin Mackay, ROV Manager at Subsea 7 which sponsored the event, said: “At Subsea 7, we view such opportunities as a chance to invest in future generations, our company, and indeed the future of the oil industry. I feel honoured to be an adjudicator in this competition, observing the creativity of the students and measuring the feasibility of their designs.”

Maureen Traquair, OPITO & YESC said: “This project is very challenging and requires real commitment from the teams. The skills that they learn and the experiences they gain, gives them a solid and informed base on which to build their future careers.”