AHS Teams win awards in ROV competition

ALPENA – The ninth annual Great Lakes Regional MATE ROV Competition took place Saturday, April 20, 2013, with 26 teams participating from schools and programs around the region. The competition is one of 22 regional contests held around the world by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center. Winning teams have the opportunity to compete in MATE’s 12th annual international competition in Federal Way, Wash.

The regional competition is hosted by Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary and run by over 100 volunteers. There are three class levels of competition: Scout, Ranger, and Explorer, with Explorer being the most difficult. Each class has a different set of missions to complete related to this years theme, “Ocean Observing Systems: Transforming Ocean Research and Launching a New Era of Discovery in the Oceans.”

There were more than five teams competing in the “Scout” and “Ranger” classes from the Alpena area, with three of the local teams winning awards.

Teams were also acknowledged for their teamwork, safety, and engineering skills at the competition, including the Alpena High School Team, who won the “Team Spirit” award for all of their hard work. The AHS Team came prepared for the competition wearing their team sweatshirts which used the acronym ROV to stand for Reliable, Organized, and Victorious.

“We were in third place for much of the day,” said team mentor John Caplis. “The team performed well in the pool and accomplished many tasks.”

This year the teams were allowed two chances to complete as many of the four tasks as possible in a certain time frame, but the tasks aren’t the only portion of the competition. Points are given toward informative posters and a presentation and engineering briefing to judges.

“We basically cover everything about the ROV,” said AHS team member Courtney VanWagoner. “We talk about our construction, funding, engineering, our ‘company’ and the team in general.”

During their first turn in the pool, the AHS team completed two missions.

“We did task three, which involved picking up a box, unlatching it, moving it, re-latching it, and putting it back,” said VanWagoner. “We also took a vent temperature with our thermometer and recorded the temperature readings.”

If needed, the teams are allowed to make adjustments before their second attempt at the missions.

“The claw malfunctioned and our buoyancy is a little off,” said member Scott Parkham. “We were positively buoyant, so we’re going to try and fix that.”

Their second attempt went well, with the team completing the temperature task again without a hitch, and performing parts of tasks 1 and 3.

“This time was a lot better than the last,” said VanWagoner. “We fixed the claw and everything went quite smoothly.”

Volunteers kept the events moving as planned throughout the day, helping with tasks ranging from organization to timing missions, with volunteer divers in the pool resetting missions and acting as a second set of eyes for the competition. One of the volunteers, Darrel Wright, helps supply some of the technical equipment for the event like the underwater cameras and televisions for spectators to watch the team missions.

“The volunteer staff here is great,” said Sanctuary member Pat Saker. “They are the ones who make this competition possible.”

Along with the volunteers, many area businesses helped to sponsor the event including Alpena Community College, Home Depot, Walmart, and ABC Hardware.

2013 ROV Competition Results:

First Place Ranger Class: Robot Factory 4-H Club Underwater Rescue Research Company, from Alpena, Mich.

Second Place Ranger Class: Melvindale High School, from Melvindale, Michigan.

These two teams will move onto the International ROV Event in Seattle, Washington in June 2013, representing the Great Lakes Region.

Team Spirit Award: Alpena High School Team, from Alpena, Mich.

Nearly half of the students competed in the beginner Scout Class:

First Place Scout Class: Robot Factory 4-H Club, Blue Eagle Research, from Alpena, Mich.

First Place Scout II Class: Oak Park Preparatory Academy, from Oak Park, Mich.

Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at ngrulke@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews