Robot workshop organizers credit supporters, participants for success


The Friends of the Mariana Trench would like to express its thanks to everyone whose contribution led to the success of the Marine Ecology via Remote Observation Workshop last month. (Contributed Photo)

The Friends of the Mariana Trench would like to express its thanks to everyone whose contribution led to the success of the Marine Ecology via Remote Observation Workshop last month.

“The Mariana Trench inspires the next generation of local explorers, engineers, and scientists,” said Laurie Peterka, secretary for Friends of the Mariana Trench. “But the success of this workshop is owed to our sponsors and partners who provided resources [that] allowed our eager participants to show up every day to learn.”

The Marianas is now home to the largest fleet of underwater OpenROV research robots and some of the most qualified OpenROV operators in the world.

OpenROV is short for open-source remotely operated vehicle and is a low-cost robotic underwater drone built with the goal of making underwater exploration, discovery, and education affordable and available to the masses.

OpenROV is an open-source hardware project. By providing the list of the submarine parts and instructions on how to assemble them, the project aims to democratize underwater exploration.

Marine protected areas such as the Mariana Trench Marine National Monument create incentives for scientists to conduct research because they provide a baseline against areas that are unprotected.

The Friends of the Mariana Trench, in partnership with Northern Marianas Trades Institute, hosted the Marine Ecology via Remote Observation Workshop on April 14-22, led by Dr. Andrew Thaler and Dr. Stacy Baez.

During the first week of the workshop, eight facilitators learned how to build an underwater robot. These robots can be submerged in the ocean and contain a camera that can be used to observe the marine environment.

Representatives from NMTI, Northern Marianas College, the Public School System (through Micronesia Islands Nature Alliance), CNMI Bureau of Environment and Coastal Quality, Okeanos Marianas, Underwater World Guam, and University of Guam Marine Lab were selected as facilitators.

After the facilitators were trained, they taught 18 students how to build and operate the machines. Students were recruited from Saipan, Tinian, Rota, and Guam. Participants built six underwater robots. These robots were donated to the community and will now be in use across the CNMI and Guam.

The Friends would like to thank OpenROV for providing robot building kits. Special thanks to NMTI for workshop space, staff, and transportation assistance. Thanks to Seatouch-Saipan for providing access to its facility in front of the Fiesta Resort & Spa, and the Fiesta Resort for their tremendous support. Okeanos Marianas provided transportation for field operations in the Saipan lagoon, and thanks to the crew who made the experience unforgettable for participants. Finally, thanks to the organizations, businesses, institutions of higher learning, and government agencies who provided facilitators to conduct the student workshop.

The workshop was made possible by a grant awarded to Thaler and Blackbeard Biologic through the NOAA Marine Educators Training Program. The Friends were selected to be the workshop’s logistical coordinator and facilitated Thaler with community outreach and participant selection as well as engaging local and community partners. (PR)

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