Subsea Industry Supports Valuable Schools’ STEM Initiative

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.

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The body, which represents the £9billion 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, said: “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.

Mr Gordon added: “With the sharp decline in oil price, many companies are having to re-evaluate their support for initiatives such as this. We are delighted that ROVOP has come alongside Subsea UK and BP to safe-guard this valuable programme and give budding young engineers a real taste of the subsea industry. The subsea industry must have a pipeline of engineers for the next generation and MATE ROV has proved that it engages pupils with industry in a compelling way.”

ROVOP has provided its backing to the project which gives students the chance to work on ROVs and provide solutions to subsea conundrums. The skills required to tackle the work are designed to promote an interest and understanding in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects.

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.”

RGU engineering lecturer and competition co-ordinator, Graeme Dunbar, said: “We are delighted that Subsea UK and ROVOP have all come on board to sponsor the MATE competition this year, adding to the vital financial support that we continue to receive from BP North Sea who have supported the competition from the start and the provision of underwater cameras by DOF Subsea.

“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.

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