Youngest at competition, but placed in the top 30

ALPENA The Underwater Rescue Robot 4-H Robotic Team traveled to the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way, Wash. Thursday for the 12th annual MATE International remotely operated vehicle competition. The team placed first in the regional competition in Alpena in April, which qualified them to compete at the international level in Washington.

The 4-H team placed 15 in the top 30 out of 620 teams, creating a stir and attracting attention as one of the youngest teams in the competition. Even though the team is young, they finished with high marks in their safety check, final mission score, and technical report with average to high marks in their engineering and poster presentation and design.

“They competed against teams that were six years older than them,” coach Bob Thomson said. “They showed that Northern Michigan can compete with the best in the world. Being one of the youngest and one of the smallest teams there, they made their presence felt.”

The team had some technical problems to overcome in the design of the Internationals mission and test equipment, but they persevered, Thomson said. Team members were the only team in the competition chosen to be interviewed by National Public Radio.

“They captured the attention of both the judges and sponsors in the way they conducted themselves and competed,” he said. “Oceaneering International Inc. (the company that Alpena Community College recently purchased an ROV from) stopped by at the end of the competition to talk to the team and tell them how impressed they were with how the team performed. Even with all this adversity, they were able to collect themselves, stay focused and made Alpena proud.”

Thomson and the team want to thank the community for helping them go to Seattle and giving them the chance to represent Alpena at an international level.

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