FFMS ROV Team Headed to International Competition
FFMS ROV Team Has Big Win!
Posted on 04/24/2017
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They’re back!  

Next Generation Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) team is comprised of First Flight Middle eighth graders Travis Lawrence, Will Roepke, Drew Whitehead,  Elliott Piland, Jack Voight, and Jacob Q. Thomas. They are sponsored by First Flight High School Physics teacher, Andrew Thomas.

March and April saw the boys redesign their submersible for this year’s regional MATE competition at ODU on April 22.  The team has juggled school and extracurricular responsibilities to finish the machine, and practice the mission in the water before the regional deadline.  Jacob Quinn Thomas, team Captain, notes, “The competition isn’t all fun and games as the spectators may think. Before that there is a lot of fine tuning and problems that always seem to pop up and cause a headache.”

Last year, they swept the board in all categories - poster, mission, and the engineering report. This year, competing up in the Ranger class, they won again - with the best water mission and first place overall- enabling them to advance to the International Competition in Long Beach, California. The  First Flight High School team won best poster and third place overall.


So now, NexGen’s focus must shift to fundraising for the California trip. Companies who sponsor the team will be highlighted in promotional materials that the team produces for the competition which includes the team poster, technological report, the engineering review, all press releases; NexGen will create a separate poster to display all of the sponsors. A business who wants to donate a chunk of cash?  The team will wear their t shirt for one day of the competition.

Top sponsors will get their logo on the ROV, and control box. This gives those donors international exposure as the missions are filmed, and streamed live on the internet.  

Andrew Thomas observed, “We are laying the foundation this year for these students to succeed at the high school level next year.  I am excited to see the boys’ knowledge grow as we build the machine. As the team had to upgrade to Ranger class this year, there was a higher initial investment.  The team intends to recycle many parts and technology for next year’s machine and mission.  Their robot is sleek, and looks professional; more importantly, it moves beautifully in the water."

The MATE Center uses underwater robots – also known as remotely operated vehicles or ROVs – to teach science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) and prepare students for technical careers.  Working in partnership with the Marine Technology Society ROV Committee, MATE created the ROV competition as a way to:

  • Engage students in STEM and expose them to science and technology careers

  • Encourage students to develop and apply technical, teamwork, and problem solving skills

  • Provide funds, materials, and technical expertise to support student learning provide industry with skilled individuals who can fill workforce needs

The MATE competition challenges K-12, community college, and university students from all over the world to design and build ROVs to tackle missions modeled after scenarios from the ocean workplace.  The competition’s class structure of beginner, intermediate, and advanced complements the education pipeline by providing students with the opportunity to build upon their skills – and the application of those skills – as they engineer increasingly more complex ROVs for increasingly more complex mission tasks.

The team welcomes any and all donations as they accrued just enough to pay the entry fee for the initial competition. So far, the machine has been funded by Dare County school teachers, Anna and Andrew Thomas.  The regional competition is a stepping stone to future success at the international level, so the boys hope that Dare County can support such a worthwhile venture for its future engineers and scientists.  Remember, top sponsors  will get their logo on the ROV, and control box - giving local businesses international exposure as the missions are filmed, and streamed live on the internet.