Team Omega will compete at international event.
 
 

Mentor award named
for inspirational club leader
 
An award to honor the skills, dedication and leadership of Sea-Tech 4-H Club leader Lee McNeil was presented at the Pacific Northwest Regional MATE competition.
 
The Marine Technology Society created the Lee McNeil Mentor award to recognize exceptional contributions to furthering science education. The award will be given to an outstanding team mentor each year at the regional event.
SKAGIT COUNTY, Wash. – If an oil spill like the April 2010 BP disaster occurs again, members of the WSU Extension Sea-Tech 4-H Club just might be the future scientists to address it.
 
Fascinated by science, engineering and technology, and wild about the thrill of competition, the four teams of 20 teens recently earned top honors at the MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) regional event. One team will advance to the international contest in Houston, Texas in mid-June.
 
There were 35 groups competing from around the region.
 
Real-world experience
 
This year’s mission simulated the remote operated vehicle (ROV) activities performed to cap the blowout of the BP well off the Louisiana coast.
 
“Teams needed to capture and remove a collapsed pipe, insert a nozzle into a blowout preventer and close a valve on the well head,” said Lee McNeil, Sea-Tech Club leader. “Our more experienced Explorer Class team will have the added challenge of capping the well under pressure and flow at the international competition.”
 
Teams also took water samples, measured ambient pressure and collected specimens from the floor of the pool.
 
The pool mission is half of the overall score. A formal technical report, a project poster and an engineering presentation before an industry panel of experts weighs equally.
 
This real-world experience translates to a variety of potential career paths.
 
“Students become a subject-matter expert for their team and are solely responsible for their portion of the project,” said McNeil. “Creative problem solving, planning, budgeting, oral and written skills and decision-making under pressure have broad applications in any technical field.”
 
Long hours and teamwork
Starting in October, the teams worked nights and weekends through April to design, build and refine their robots. They practiced pool missions repeatedly to hone their skills.
 
“We had 15 minutes to complete the mission tasks, which was exciting and stressful at the same time” said Matthew Atilano, 16, from Camano Island. As a third year Sea-Tech member and team captain, he created work schedules, documented completed tasks and provided leadership to his teammates.
 
“This year I learned more about design and how to build an effective ROV that not only can complete all the tasks but is also robust, agile and stable,” he said.
 
The Sea-Tech Club teams and their regional awards are:
 
Team Omega, qualified to compete in the international event in Explorer Class
Team Endeavor, first place Explorer Class
Team Neptune, second place Ranger Class
Team Hydrozilla, sixth place overall