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NEWPORT, Ore. – Students from Newport High School have qualified for an international underwater robotics competition in California after placing first at a similar contest in Lincoln City that tested their engineering and problem-solving skills.
“The Finnovators” were one of 31 teams from Oregon that participated in the state’s 6th annual Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle competition on April 29 at the pool at the Lincoln City Community Center. More than 200 students from elementary school through college demonstrated devices they built for the competition, which aims to prepare students for technical careers.
Teams hailed from Astoria, Warrenton, Tillamook, Lincoln City, Newport, Toledo, Eddyville, Waldport, Florence, Bandon, Albany, Aloha, Tigard, Beaverton and The Dalles.
The competition, which was coordinated by Oregon Sea Grant and sponsored by the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, was divided into four categories based on skill and grade level. Only two of the categories, Ranger and Explorer, allowed students to advance to the 16th annual international competition, which will be held from June 23-25 in Long Beach, Calif., and will feature the top 60 teams from around the globe, including ones from Canada, the United Kingdom, the Middle East, and Russia.
“The Finnovators” were in the Ranger level, which requires students to perform all tasks without looking in the pool and instead rely only on the sensors and cameras on their robot. Although they are not required to compete in the regional competition, two Explorer-level teams from Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC) and Clatsop Community College (CCC) attended the regional event to demonstrate their robots. They, along with another Explorer team from Oregon State University, are working on fulfilling requirements to qualify for the international competition.
The Oregon event is one of 30 regional contests around the world that are coordinated by the California-based Marine Advanced Technology Education Center.
Each year a new theme is chosen. This year’s theme highlights the role of remotely operated vehicles – or ROVs – in monitoring the environment and supporting industries in port cities. Like port managers and marine researchers, the students at the Lincoln City contest guided their robots through tasks that simulated identifying cargo containers that fell overboard, repairing equipment, and taking samples of hypothetically contaminated sediment and shellfish. Students also presented marketing materials they created and gave engineering presentations.
Additional support for the event came from the MATE Center, the Marine Technology Society, the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, Oregon State University, the Oregon Coast Aquarium, the Georgia-Pacific Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. Over 50 volunteers from these and other organizations ran the competition and served as judges and divers.