• Simulated Gulf Oil Spill Challenges Students

    Students from all over the world, including a Coppell High School engineering team of about one dozen, will gather in Houston from June 16-18 to compete in the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center's 10th Annual International Student ROV (Remotely  Operated Vehicle) Competition. The CHS team is going into the competition ranked 3rd in the world after winning 1st place in the regional (Texas) competition. Under the direction of STEM Academy teacher Bill Montana, the team will head to NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab (NBL) in the Sonny Carter Training Facility at the NASA Johnson Space Center on June 15. The competition will be streamed live on the Internet at http://www.mateover.org/.

    Remotely Operated Vehicle's were designed and built to withstand the same conditions and challenges faced by the ROV operators during last year's Deepwater Horizon oil spill. This year's contest encouraged students to think like "entrepreneurs" while creating and testing their ROV. Instead of forming teams, students formed "companies" tasked with designing specialized tools to help with oil spill mitigation. This helps them develop the teamwork,  creative thinking, and problem solving skill that are important for being competitive in today's global workplace.
    Commercial ROVs are used extensively in the offshore oil and gas industries. During the Gulf Oil spill, ROVs and their operators worked around the clock for nearly three months to support the operations to cap and contain the devastating spill. Students will face a simulation of this scenario as they complete mission tasks such as removing a damaged riser pipe, capping a wellhead, collecting a water sample, measuring depth, and sampling organisms.

    In addition to the underwater missions, teams must submit reports and make presentations to a panel of judges who represent various aspects of the marine industry. Each team is evaluated on the design, construction, and performance of its ROV; the members' ability to communicate what they learned; and how they put their knowledge to use in designing and building their ROV.

    This year marks the 10th anniversary of the competition and the third time it has been held at NASA. At 202 feet long, 102 feet wide, 40 feet deep, and a capacity of 6.2 million gallons, the NBL is the world's largest indoor pool. It is normally used to train astronauts for spacewalks and other extra-vehicular space tasks.