Sanctuary seeking volunteers for ROV competition

ALPENA – The 2014 Great Lakes Regional Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition will be May 17, and the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary is looking for volunteers to help with several aspects of the competition.

“Last year we had close to 90 volunteers for the event, and we’re looking for around that many again this year,” sanctuary education specialist Harriet Smith said. “There are a whole range of opportunities for volunteers from judging to our information booth and team ranglers.”

There are three class levels in the competition, and judges are needed for each level. There are several judges for each part of the competition ranging from mission judging, ROV engineering aspects, and oral and poster presentations.

“We have ranger, navigator and scout classes,” Smith said. “Team wranglers help the teams get to where they need to be on time. Last year was the first year we had volunteers help with getting the teams to their stations, and it really helped everything run smoothly. It was great.”

There also are volunteer positions for the information booth at the competition. The booth helps the teams that come from all over the Great Lakes region find different things around Alpena.

“Volunteers in the booth get to tell people about the Alpena area and direct them to restaurants, shopping and activity centers,” Smith said. “They are essentially ambassadors of Alpena.”

Smith said they are always looking for AV and technical experienced volunteers to take photos and document the competition.

“There are a lot of ways to participate,” she said. “The event is really fun. Each team puts a lot of work into preparing for the competition, and it’s amazing what these kids can do. They explain the engineering of their robots, safety features, run their teams as a business and have to guide their robots through a series of tasks underwater. It’s a great event to watch.”

The theme this year is centered around the sanctuary and its practices including shipwreck exploration, science and conservation, and all the tasks are based on real-life situations sanctuary staff have encountered in the past. Students will explore and examine a shipwreck, study a sinkhole and learn about different conservation methods used by sanctuary staff and its partners.

“It’s a long day, but we will take any hours of volunteer time anyone has to donate,” Smith said. “It’s fun to interact with the kids and teams and see what they’ve done. The teams are so excited about the competition and it is a fun opportunity to get involved. Even if you aren’t able to volunteer, we encourage spectators to come enjoy the competition.”

For more information or to volunteer call Smith at 356-8805 ex. 39, or email her at

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