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Vol 37  No 16
June 30, 2005


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Team wins gold at robot competition

Four Memorial students, as part of a team of 33, won gold recently at an international underwater robotics competition held in the astronaut training facility, Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. With students from MUN and high schools in the Eastern School District, the team competed against 40 other teams, including some prestigious engineering schools. The team’s win was in the advanced technology (Explorer) class and their awards included first place overall, 2005 Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition; first place Robot Performance; first place Engineering Panel Presentation; first Engineering Display; first place Teamwork and Professionalism; and first place in Tether Management

The four MUN students on the team are engineering students Scott Follett, Sarah Howse, Renee Hodder and Andrew Osmond. The Newfoundland team’s ROV is a miniature version of the robots used for industrial and research tasks in underwater and space environments. According to team coordinator Clar Button of O’Donel High School, the judges described the Newfoundland and Labrador robot as a “fabulous piece of engineering, which was close in design and fabrication to the prototypes currently used in industry and leading-edge research.”

The team of 33 students has been designing, building and training for this competition since December, each investing over 300 hours. Team mentor Dwight Howse of the Marine Institute says, “This competition was a challenging event that gave our Newfoundland and Labrador students an opportunity to demonstrate their creativity, and resourcefulness in a simulated space mission. Their success is an endorsement of their capabilities and a reminder that they can compete successfully on a global scale, and even in space.”

This is the fourth annual robotics competition offered by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre and the Marine Technology Society, headquartered in Monterey, CA. The competition was held at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab, the facility used to train astronauts to conduct missions in space in a simulated zero gravity environment. With life-sized mock-ups of the space shuttle, segments of the international space station and the Canadarm in the background, the teams performed mission tasks in an immense, 12 meter-deep pool. NASA’s interest in the competition is to examine new ideas in robotics, emerging from the brightest students, which might be used in the next generation of space missions to the Moon and Mars.

The provincial team has received generous support from a number of firms across North America, including Inuktun Limited (Naniamo, BC), LEONI- Elocab (Kitchener, Ontario), ITT-Johnson (Illinois, USA), B/C Valve (Kansas, USA). Local major sponsors include the Marine Institute of Memorial University, Aliant, Exxon-Mobil, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, NorthStar Technologies and Thomas Glass.

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