Education Taking robotics to new depths: Fairview students take part in ROV competition on Dauphin Island | The Cullman Tribune


Taking robotics to new depths: Fairview students take part in ROV competition on Dauphin Island

The Fairview High School ROV team: CEO/Pilot Tre Kinney, CFO/Tether Operator Katie Golden, Marketing Director Jozi Jackson, Intern/Hydraulics operator Jarret Clayton and Faculty Assistant Eric Vest.  (Photo courtesy Michelle Watwood/Fairview High School)

FAIRVIEW - Fairview High School (FHS) recently sent a four-student team to compete in the sixth annual Northern Gulf Coast Regional ROV Challenge at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, at the mouth of Mobile Bay.  An ROV is a remotely operated vehicle used underwater, and the ROV Challenge is a form of robotics competition that takes place in an aquatic environment. FHS has a regular robotics team as well, but students wanted to try something new.

“I believe we just wanted to try something different and something people don't really hear that much about,” said team member Katie Golden.

Fairview’s ROV team has been competing for four years, practicing at the Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center.  As competitions include deployment and use of the ROV, and the additional challenge of a “Shark Tank” style marketing presentation, the team includes operators and administrative personnel.  The current roster includes:

  • CEO/Pilot Tre Kinney
  • CFO/Tether operator Katie Golden
  • Marketing Director Jozi Jackson
  • Intern/Hydraulics operator Jarret Clayton
  • Faculty Sponsor Stephanie Chambers
  • Faculty Assistant Eric Vest

The annual competition is part of an international program created by the California-based Marine Advanced Technology Education Center (MATE), whose stated purpose is “to provide the marine technical workforce with appropriately educated workers and to use marine technology to create interest in and improve STEM education.”

This year’s competition theme was “Jet City: Aircraft, Earthquakes, and Energy,” and had students address hypothetical uses for ROVs in places like Seattle on the Pacific Northwest coast.  According to the mission description for the event:

“The Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and crew that can operate in the salt and fresh water areas in the Pacific Northwest. The specific tasks for the ROV and operators include:

1) Locating the wreckage of a vintage airplane and returning its engine to the surface.

2) Installing or recovering a seismometer.

3) Installing a tidal turbine and instrumentation to monitor the environment

“Before launch and operations, the ROV must complete a series of ‘product demonstrations’ staged at a swimming pool at various regional locations . . . Companies that successfully complete the product demonstrations and deliver exceptional engineering and communication components (e.g. technical documentation, engineering presentations, and marketing displays) will be awarded the contract.”

Teams competed in one of four levels, depending on grade level and previous MATE tournament experience.  Fairview entered as a “Navigator” team which had to:

  • Locate and identify a submerged aircraft, remove debris from the engine, and return the engine to the surface using lift bags
  • Deploy and activate an earthquake detecting Ocean-Bottom Seismometer
  • Locate the optimum place for, and install an energy generating tidal turbine; as well as collecting and transplanting samples of Eelgrass

Fairview won last year’s competition but encountered setbacks and did not place this time around.  Vest told The Tribune:

“This was our first year to implement a hydraulic pincher so there was big learning curve.  Unfortunately, some hard lessons were learned during our product demonstration in reference to the claw.  We plan to take these lessons learned and create a better designed ROV for next year's competition.

“I am waiting for the score sheets to be sent to me, but I must say that I was very proud of the way our students represented themselves and our school during the engineering presentation.  After their presentation there was a Q&A with the judges, who are engineers themselves, and I feel that the students handled themselves very well; they also had the opportunity to learn some interesting facts from the judges.  Overall it was a great experience, they are a great group of kids!

“Finally, I would like to give recognition to Bill Smith for loaning us a vehicle for the trip, Cullman Aquatic Center for allowing us to use their pool for practice, and Walker Brothers for donating materials.”

Team member comments


“ROV has been a pivotal experience in my life and has influenced many future goals.  Without ROV, it is very possible that I would still have no clue on what career I wish to pursue but now I know.  Engineering is the career field for me and I couldn’t be more excited.”


“This is my fourth and final year being a part of this team.  Being here since the beginning, I have seen this team not only grow competition wise but as people.  We have grown so much of the years; it is amazing. It is going to be difficult not having this experience next year.”


“This year we regret to inform everyone that we did not place in this year’s ROV competition due to some unexpected events.  We had an incredible experience competing with our ROV, and with the competition in general.

“This is my fourth year competing and piloting our ROV at the competition, and I have always enjoyed it.  I got to meet lots of new people and seeing what ideas other teams had, as well as sharing some of our own.  To me, it is always fun to see what you can do under pressure, and this competition really tests you.

“Next year we hope to conjoin with the Fairview Robotics team to gain more experience working with computer programs electrical components to help advance how we approach building an ROV for future competitions.”

For more on MATE programs at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, visit

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  • Team members prepare to launch their ROV. (Photo courtesy Michelle Watwood/Fairview High School)