Tackling the murky reaches of an ocean on one of Jupiter’s moons is just one of the missions school pupils from across Scotland will be tackling as part of this year’s MATE Scotland ROV Challenge.
The Scottish leg of the challenge, co-ordinated and hosted by Robert Gordon University (RGU), will see 12 schools put underwater robots they have designed and built to the test on Thursday, March 31 at RGU’s Sir Ian Wood Building.
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.
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.
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 are scenarios inspired by inner and outer space.
These include 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, with Peterhead Academy winning the 2015 competition.