Author Topic: Students Robots to Take Place of Spacewalkers in NASA Pool  (Read 559 times)

Online Chris Bergin

HOUSTON, June 21 /PRNewswire/ -- Normally used to train spacewalking astronauts, one of the world's largest indoor pools at, NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, instead will test the skills this weekend of more than 40 student-built robots from around the world.

The 6.2-million gallon pool, called the Neutral Buoyancy Laboratory at 13000 Space Center Blvd., will host the fifth annual international underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) student competition June 23-25. Media are invited to visit the competition from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. CDT Saturday, June 24 and are asked to call the newsroom at (281) 483-5111 by 5 p.m. CDT Friday, June 23.

The competition is organized by the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center (MATE) and Marine Technology Society's (MTS) ROV Committee. It teaches students about the science and technology of ocean observing, technologies that are also used in space. As NASA prepares to send humans back to the moon and eventually to Mars, remotely controlled vehicles will be critical tools.

In the competition, the students' creations must accomplish real-world tasks to deploy and maintain a complex network of underwater measuring devices. For example, students will use their vehicles to install, recover, repair and maintain electronics instruments. As teams from middle schools, high schools, community colleges and universities compete, other teams and guests will watch on monitors near the pool.

MATE's mission is to improve marine science and technology education to meet marine workforce needs. The competition encourages students to apply skills in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and teamwork to create ROVs and learn about ocean-related career opportunities. The top winners from 14 regional competitions held around the world earn a spot in the international competition.

MATE and the MTS ROV Committee teamed up with Ocean.US and the Ocean Research Interactive Observatory Networks (ORION) Program to develop the underwater competition scenarios. NASA is one of ten federal sponsors of Ocean.US, an interagency federal government office chartered to develop a comprehensive plan for implementing ocean observing systems. The ORION Program focuses on science, technology, education, and outreach issues associated with ocean observing.

NASA's NBL pool is 202 feet long, 102 feet wide and 40 feet deep. The facility hosted last year's national competition. The Texas regional competitions in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 were also held there. The competition is supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Marine Technology Society ROV Committee and other ocean- and space-related organizations.