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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NOAA06-R424
April 13, 2006

CONTACT:
Gail Krueger
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary
(912) 598-2397

GRAY'S REEF NATIONAL MARINE SANCTUARY HOSTS FIRST SOUTHEASTERN REMOTELY OPERATED VEHICLE COMPETITION

Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary will host the first annual Southeastern Region ROV (remotely operated vehicle) Competition for students April 22nd at the Chatham County Aquatic Center on Sallie Mood Drive in Savannah, Ga. The Earth Day competition will allow students to learn important skills used by scientists to study the world's oceans.

Eight teams of high school students will build their own ROVs out of PVC pipe and small motors. Each team will have a chance to put their creations through their paces in the Aquatic Center pool. The students will be required to guide their ROVs over a target in the pool, submerge it, navigate it through the target, retrieve an object from the target, place it in another area, and navigate back to the surface and edge of the pool for retrieval.

The winning team will advance to an international competition sponsored by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center to be held June 23-25 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

"Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) are a vital part of our scientific tool box at Gray's Reef and other sanctuaries that scientists use to study undersea habitat and marine life through observation and photography," said Cathy Sakas, acting manager and education coordinator for Gray's Reef sanctuary. "Through this competition, we hope to show students science can be exciting and fun, and encourage them to consider careers in the sciences."

In preparation for the ROV competition earlier this year, Gray's Reef staff conducted a teacher workshop at the Georgia Aquarium and sponsored a ROV building workshop for 27 Savannah area high school students.

The competition, which is open to the public, begins at 8:00 a.m. and lasts until all teams have had the opportunity to complete the required tasks.

Designated in 1981, Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary, part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), is one of the largest near shore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 17 square nautical miles. Gray's Reef sanctuary consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to ten feet in height, in a predominantly sandy, flat-bottomed sea floor. The live bottom and ledge habitat support an abundant reef fish and invertebrate community. Loggerhead sea turtles, a threatened species, also use Gray's Reef year-round for foraging and resting, and the reef is near the known winter calving ground for the highly endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

The NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program seeks to increase the public awareness of America's marine resources and maritime heritage by conducting scientific research, monitoring, exploration and educational programs. Today, the sanctuary program manages 13 national marine sanctuaries and one coral reef ecosystem reserve that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America's ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA's National Ocean Service manages the sanctuary program and is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department. NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, 61 countries and the European Commission to develop a global network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

On the Internet:
NOAA - http://www.noaa.gov
National Ocean Service - http://oceanservice.noaa.gov
National Marine Sanctuary Program - http://sanctuaries.noaa.gov
Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary - http://graysreef.noaa.gov


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