High school students test-drive robots in St. John's

Hundreds of high school students from across the province are guiding their aquatic robots in an annual regional competition this weekend at the Marine Institute.

Competition organizers say students develop skills useful in offshore oil industry

High school students from across Newfoundland and Labrador have worked on remotely-operated vehicles for months. (CBC)

Hundreds of high school students from across Newfoundland and Labrador are in St. John's this weekend with their robots.

It's not an invasion — but the annual Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle (MATE ROV) regional competition at the Marine Institute.

Dwight Howse is head of the school of ocean technology at the Marine Institute and coordinator of the competition. (CBC)

Students have worked on and finely tuned remotely-operated vehicles for months, which are now being test-driven in the institute's world-class tank.

Dwight Howse, head of the school of ocean technology and coordinator of the competition, said the ROVs are expected to perform and mimic delicate operations moving scientific instruments.

"Off our shores right now, each one of the oil installations have used ROVs to install and maintain equipment there, so none of the things that are done at depth in the ocean can be done without robots, especially as we go deeper in the ocean," said Howse.

But Howse said the students are doing a lot more than just having fun — they're developing skills that are useful in the offshore oil industry.

"Ultimately what I would like to gain is that the students go away from here and say there are a lot of career opportunites associated with the oceans," said Howse.

Nathan Hollett represented Hillview Academy in Norris Arm on Friday.

Nathan Hollett, from Norris Arm in central Newfoundland, is participating in this weekend's ROV competition. (CBC)

His team came in first place last year.

Hollett said he's given some thought about where this experience might lead.

"Possibly a career, not sure, but I'd definitely like to do something in physics, engineering or the sciences," he said.

"This really helps open up the doors to see if you like it, and I love it."

The competition is fierce, especially as students are vying for a spot at an international ROV competition in Seattle this summer.