ALPENA - The Alpena team Underwater Research Robot was given the Spirit Award at the 2014 Marine Advanced Technology Education International Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition this past weekend. The team also placed in the top 10 of over 30 teams in the Ranger class.
The award came with a $100 gift card, electronic supplies and several reference materials to prepare for next year's competitions.
"We are very proud of their hard work and they represented Alpena and the State of Michigan with pride," mentor Bob Thomson said. "The whole experience was fantastic, and having it in Alpena made it over the top. The Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary staff were incredible hosts, and I feel it was the best competition the team has ever attended."
The team worked all year on its robot, and the biggest challenge was ensuring it continued to work for the competition. Because of the hours of practice time on the robot, it had started to develop small problems, and each morning of the competition the team was adjusting small things to fix issues.
"The journey to internationals has been the best learning experience because you always seem to be in problem solving mode," Thomson said. "You really don't understand how big a deal it is until you listen to the stories of the other teams and the struggles they have endured to get there to compete.
"One of the India teams spent 30 hours on a bus, then another 28 hours flying, then being detained in customs. The Egyptian team had their entire robot taken apart and were detained for so long they only made it for the last day, and never got their robot in the water because it was broken so badly, but they said they would do it again. It was a great opportunity for the kids to see how hard these teams were willing to work to get to Alpena."
Team members said they really enjoyed having internationals in their hometown, and were excited to see all the designs of the other teams.
"Our walk-away is that we gained more experience, developed new design ideas and begin looking forward to next year," member Elizabeth Thomson said. "The team, even at the awards ceremony, was coming up with design ideas for next year."
Member Nathan Cosbitt said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience to be able to share Alpena with the world.
Teammate Josh Beatty enjoyed the challenge of the competition and the fun, and can't wait to start the journey all over again.
"We may not have made the top three, but I think this gives us something to work for and drive to get better," team member Breanna Domrase said. "We wanted to make top 10, and we did that. Now we try for top five."
Savannah Thomson said sharing and interacting with the teams from around the world was an amazing experience and she really enjoyed the competition.
Thomson said the UR2 team did a great job, and he was thankful to be able to be involved with the competition and see all the teams enjoying Alpena.
"We continually received compliments on how wonderful teams were being treated by the community," Thomson said. "It made the team very proud to call Alpena home."
The team expresses their gratitude to their families, friends and community for supporting them this year and being a part of their success.
Nicole Grulke can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5687. Follow Nicole on Twitter @ng_alpenanews.