Alpena teams shine at ROV competition

ALPENA – Three teams from Alpena took first place at the Great Lakes Regional Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition at Plaza Pool Saturday. There were 39 teams from all over Michigan and Ohio competing for the best score in a series of presentations and tasks.

The annual event encourages students to learn and apply science, technology, engineering and math skills to design and build their own underwater robots to complete the competition missions. Each mission simulates a real-world challenge faced while working in the ocean or Great Lakes.

There are three classes of missions, and the top three places in the most advanced category, Ranger Class, are now headed to the international competition June 26-28, which will be held at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary helps to organize the regional event every year, and has an impressive number of volunteers involved in the competition.

First place in the Ranger Class went to the Underwater Research Robot (UR2) team from Alpena. Second place went to Gizmo, the Gahanna Lincoln High School team from Ohio and the Stockbridge High School Team No. 1, from Stockbridge, took third place.

The other two classes involved in the competition are Navigator and Scout. First place in the Navigator class went to the 4H Robot Factory team, The Spartans, of Alpena. First place in the Scout class went to the Hur-on the Bottom team, also from Alpena.

The Ranger Class winning UR2 team is the reigning winner from last year’s competition, and traveled to Washington to compete in last year’s international competition.

“The event was great,” sancgtuary Media and Outreach Coordinator Stephanie Gandulla said. “There were nearly 100 volunteers who put their time and efforts to helping out at this competition. We had new and veteran volunteers, and the veterans helped to train the new ones. It was a hectic day, but went very smoothly with all of the help.”

Every team was given two chances to complete a series of missions designed around the theme of shipwrecks, science and conservation.

“Each team worked very hard designing and building their ROV for the competition,” Gandulla said. “It’s a really fun event, and each year there are more and more spectators that come to observe the missions and learn more about the competition.”

Gandulla said the students were at Plaza Pool bright and early Saturday morning to get ready for the competition, and the volunteers helped to keep the whole event running smoothly.

“It’s quite a busy and hectic place,” she said. “We have information booths, registration, pool missions and engineering, and all this is happening at once. It’s very good stuff and a lot of fun. Every year it is so cool to watch what these students can do, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’re getting more and more spectators. It’s just a really great event and it gives the students a chance to show off something they have put a lot of time and work into.”

Teams worked through the missions by exploring and documenting shipwrecks, studying sinkholes and conserving national maritime heritage sites, such as the sanctuary, where more than 50 shipwrecks are submerged. Teams had to pilot their ROVs to identify a simulated shipwreck, collect microbial samples from a sinkhole, inventory invasive species and remove trash. Each team has to form a company and develop creative solutions from engineering and building an ROV to perform all the missions effectively within a certain time frame.

The competition is supported by local and regional sponsors.

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