New ROV competition coming to Alabama

New ROV competition coming to Alabama
Rachel McDonald observes students during an ROV competition at Dauphin Island Sea Lab. (contributed)

Alabama’s Dauphin Island Sea Lab (DISL) is adding a second remotely operated vehicle (ROV) competition to its list of marine science learning opportunities.

Rachel McDonald, ROV competition coordinator for DISL, said the first-ever Alabama SeaPerch ROV Competition will be held Feb. 8, 2020, at UMS-Wright Preparatory School in Mobile. McDonald said teams from across the Southeast will construct a pre-designed ROV, which they will use to compete in a pool obstacle course and a mission course. The competition will also include a technical design report.

The competition winner qualifies for the National SeaPerch Challenge, which this year is happening in May at the University of Maryland.

ROV competitions from Dauphin Island Sea Lab inspire students from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The SeaPerch competition is one of two regional ROV competitions hosted by DISL. The second is the Northern Gulf Coast regional competition for the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) program. In this April competition, teams of middle and high school students, helped by their teachers or mentors, design, build and pilot their own unique ROV before coming to the Dauphin Island Sea Lab to compete against student teams from across the Gulf Coast in a series of science-based missions.

The winner automatically advances to the MATE ROV Competition-World Championship, which will take place June 25-27 at Villanova University.

McDonald said the goal of these competitions, and other ROV programs at DISL, is to inspire students’ interest in robotics, aquatic science and oceanography.

“We want to inspire kids to study the oceans more,” McDonald said. “We hope these kids will be inspired to go and use this knowledge.”

Tina Miller-Way, chair of Discovery Hall Programs at DISL, said the ROV programs and competitions are key parts of the staff’s philosophy of hands-on learning.

“We learn by doing,” Miller-Way said. “When you bring students out of that classroom and put them outside, in the field, or use a different modality of teaching such as hands-on learning, you’re able to reach a different group of students or you’re able to reach students in a different way than what you might in the classroom.”

DISL also offers ROV summer camps for students and teachers. To learn more about these programs, including application deadlines, visit, email [email protected] or contact Rachel McDonald at (251) 861-2141 x5076.

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