Subsea industry supports valuable schools’ STEM initiative

Posted on 12 Mar 2015 by Jonny Williamson

More aspiring young engineers will get the chance to participate in an international competition to design underwater machinery and robotics thanks to leadership and support from Subsea UK.

The body, which represents the £9bn subsea industry in the UK, has entered into a long-term partnership with RGU to sustain and extend the highly successful Scottish MATE ROV Challenge.

The major STEM initiative aims to inspire future engineers through hands-on experience of designing remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) used underwater in the oil and gas; defence; oceanology, and marine renewables industries.

The annual event, which is coordinated by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre in California in partnership with Aberdeen’s Robert Gordon University (RGU), involves teams made up of pupils from schools across Scotland.

To date, MATE ROV has worked with 460 pupils from 29 schools with an annual commitment from BP and ad-hoc support from other oil and gas companies.

Subsea UK chief executive, Neil Gordon, commented: “MATE ROV has captured the imagination of school pupils and subsea business alike since it was first run in Scotland in 2008.

“Representing the entire subsea supply chain, Subsea UK is ideally placed to communicate and promote the initiative to industry, ensuring more meaningful engagement.

“This in turn will provide the best experience for the pupils who may become tomorrow’s subsea industry leaders. By bringing the industry closer to the programme and securing longer-term commitments in terms of cash, expertise and equipment, we hope to extend its reach to more pupils across Scotland and eventually to other regions in the UK.”

Subsea company ROVOP has also stepped in to support the initiative, which along with the financial contribution of Subsea UK and another new sponsor, brings a much-needed £16,000 to the programme.

Doug Middleton, operations director at ROVOP, said: “ROVOP is committed to leading the use of technology and training to improve the subsea industry. The MATE ROV Challenge offers unique experience of designing, building and operating subsea remotely operated vehicles. We are excited to support the involvement of young people whose skills and ingenuity will drive the industry forward in future. We need efficiency and new ideas at a time when many companies are cutting investment.”

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RGU engineering lecturer and competition co-ordinator, Graeme Dunbar, said: “The competition is a fantastic way of sparking a love of engineering in school pupils and over the years we have seen more and more schools and pupils interested in getting involved. It is an investment in the future of the industry and the support that we are receiving from all our sponsors will allow us to expand and improve the MATE competition which is fantastic.”

The winners of the Scottish competition, which is held on April 2 at RGU, will go forward to the international final to pit their wits against qualifiers from 24 other regions around the world at The Marine Institute, St John’s, Newfoundland in Canada.