MAY 4, 2016, NORFOLK (NNS) – Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center employees volunteered during Nauticus’ 10th annual Marine Advance Technology Education Mid-Atlantic Regional Underwater Robotics Competition at the Old Dominion University Recreation and Wellness Center in Norfolk, April 30.
The competition encouraged students to apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills as they created underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) to participate in missions that simulate real-life issues.
This year’s theme was “From the Gulf of Mexico to Jupiter’s Moon Europa: ROV Encounters in Inner and Outer Space,” and highlighted technologies developed for exploration and scientific use in both ocean and space environments.
“It’s wonderful to have so many volunteers here today because the competition can’t run alone,” said Nauticus Education Specialist/Special Programs Manager Susie Hill. “We needed underwater pool mission judges, engineering judges and poster judges, as well as overall logistics judges. It meant a whole lot to have judges that have that kind of experience — the expertise for areas like engineering and electrical design.”
Students tested their ROVs in four underwater missions including photographing ocean samples of deep sea coral, surveying the ocean floor for model NASA mini cube space satellites, identifying oil samples using gas chromatograph charts and repairing an oil wellhead.
Teams ranged from scout (beginner level) to ranger (advanced level) and came from schools in Delaware, North Carolina and Virginia to make up 15 teams.
A panel of judges reviewed each team’s ROV for design, safety and teamwork skills during the product presentation and had an opportunity to ask students questions about their design.
“I was judging the production portion of the competition,” said MARMC Waterfront Operations Project Officer Lt. Colleen Enloe. “As a water mission judge, I scored students on their ability to test their ROVs in completing the obstacles, challenges and tasks we had for them.”
Judging was broken into different areas. In addition to completing the underwater obstacle course, students created product displays and presented their project to judges as if they were trying to sell their product to a business. Mission specifications were based on students receiving a call from NASA wanting to put their ROV in space.
“My senior design project out of the Naval Academy was an autonomous underwater vehicle,” said Enloe. “I am really excited to be here because I enjoy robotics competitions and this was my first time serving as a judge instead of a student. One of the things that I enjoyed most that was really rewarding to see, was the middle school students and the different and creative ways they tried to solve the same problems. It was a lot of fun for me.”
Ten MARMC divers volunteered during the competition, providing underwater support during product demonstration runs.
“The ROVs that high school teams built were pretty cool,” said MARMC Bravo Navy Diver 1st Class Grant Lloyd. “They had all these different restrictions (in building their ROVs) — they could only spend a certain amount on parts and only a certain percentage of the ROV could be made with store-bought parts. They made a lot of parts with 3-D printers and they were pretty impressive.”
Obstacles were staged in the pool in order for students to complete their missions. Divers were positioned at all four stations to reset obstacle courses and retrieve ROVs if they sunk or got hung on something.
“I helped out with this competition last year and I wanted to volunteer again this year,” said Lloyd. “It’s nice to be able to show these young kids a small part of what we do and how we work in the Navy.”
The winning ranger team from First Flight High School, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, advanced to the international competition at the NASA Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, June 23-25.