Winning teams from Clearwater Middle School.

Hundreds of Bermudian students met at the National Sports Centre pool on Saturday to compete in an undersea robotics challenge, a partnership between BIOS and the Mid Atlantic Robotics In Education Program (MARINE), with lead sponsor HSBC.

Students spent months building the robots, known as remotely operated vehicles or ROVS, during after-school programs in collaboration with their teachers, parents, and other adult mentors. During Saturday’s culminating event, 28 teams competed; first place teams included students from Clearwater Middle School, which also won top honors in 2015.

“We made a lot of modifications to our robot from last year and we are happy it came through for us,” said student Kevin Sunga, 14, a member of the Clearwater Middle School team “CW Engineering.” 

Other 2016 winners included teams from Learning Express Academy and Bermuda Homeschool Network.

BIOS MATE ROV competition teams

Navigator class 2nd place winners; team Auarius from Learning Express Academy.

This years topic theme was “From the Gulf of Mexico to Jupiter’s moon Europa: ROV Encounters in Inner and Outer Space.” During the challenge, students set the robotic vehicles on a variety of missions, from surveying and retrieving samples from a moon-like surface to collecting a coral sample from the “deep sea” (or the bottom of the pool). Students also earned points from judges based on a marketing poster created by the team and during interviews with judges about their ROV.

At the beginning of the school year each team received a basic kit, which they used as a starting point to build their individual robots, adding floatation and weights as they progressed through design iterations. “It’s amazing what they are doing with this simple technology,” said Justin Smith, operational technology services manager for the BIOS-operated research vessel Atlantic Explorer and a judge for Saturday’s event. Noting that several teams at the event were struggling with challenges on their designs, such as robotic claws that failed to open and close on command, Smith said that those types of difficulties were common for engineers at sea.

“It’s normal for us to be dealing with balky robots and instruments while on the ship, so this gives the students a very real look at marine engineering,” he said.

BIOS MATE ROV somersfield BIOS MATE ROV BIOS MATE ROV Warwick Academy

photos by Jorge Sanchez

The robotics event reflects BIOS’s commitment to using underwater vehicles to understand complex ocean processes, said program coordinator and BIOS science educator Kaitlin Baird. Building ROVs fosters critical thinking skills, enhances individual and group problem solving skills, and boosts technological fluency. It also supports education goals associated with science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as the STEM fields.

For the 2016 piloting challenge, MARINE partnered with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) center to host a regional challenge. Students competed at two levels, as designated by MATE. Beginners competed at the Scout level and more advanced students at the Navigator level. Students completed the event on the same challenge course as other MATE regional partner internationally.

For more photos go to our Facebook page at: BIOS-Ocean Academy

BIOS is a U.S .not-for-profit organization with 501(c)(3) status and a Bermuda registered charity (#116).