Brechin High pupils in national spotlight

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PUPILS from Brechin High School joined many others from across the country taking part in the Scottish regional final of an annual international ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) design challenge.

This year’s challenge was themed around the technology and methods that were utilised to seal the oil leak on the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico in April 2010.

The regional competition is the only one of its type in Europe and is co-ordinated each year by Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, in conjunction with the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Centre in California, USA.

The MATE Centre co-ordinates the international competition, which sees a network of 20 regional ROV contests taking place across the US, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong.

Student teams from primary and secondary schools, colleges, universities and community organisations participate in the events, which consist of two different classes according to the sophistication of the ROVs – Ranger and Explorer class.

Building on what has largely been a north-east competition in recent years, this year saw students from further afield taking part for the first time.

Seven schools from across Scotland took part in the Ranger Class regional final last Wednesday, each having constructed their own ROVs from scratch that are suited to the challenge.

Brechin High School pupils and their counterparts from Bannockburn High were new to the competition, joined by regular competitors Mearns Academy, Inverurie Academy, Menzieshill High School, Bucksburn Academy and Robert Gordon’s College.

On the day, it was Menzieshill who stormed to first place.

They will now join the university team in travelling to the NASA Johnson Space Centre in Houston to battle it out for the world title from the 16-18 June 16 to 18.

The theme this year was ‘Offshore Oil Production and the Environment’.

The student teams had to pilot their ROVs and use the specialist tools they had designed for them to carry out a series of tasks. They had to repair and cap an oil well and then collect biological samples including models of crabs, sea cucumbers and sponges.

The regional event also provided an opportunity for the Robert Gordon University student team to demonstrate their readiness to go forward to the Explorer Class international final.

Sponsorship for the regional final was provided by Subsea 7, a global leader in seabed-to-surface engineering, construction and services.

In addition, OPITO, the industry’s focal point for skills, learning and workforce development, contributed prizes and hardware to the competition, and promoted it through the Young Engineers and Science Clubs (YESC).

The ROV project is part of a wider programme of joint working between Robert Gordon University and industry organisations.

Such joint initiatives represent flourishing working relationships which continue to bring significant opportunities to the north-east of Scotland.