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April 17, 2007

Gail Krueger
(912) 598-2397


NOAA’s Gray's Reef National Marine Sanctuary will host the upcoming 2007 Southeastern Region Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition on April 21 at the Chatham County Aquatic Center in Savannah, Ga.

Using PVC pipe and small motors, teams of students from four Georgia high schools will build underwater robots and put their creations through their paces in the aquatic center pool, competing for a spot in an international competition sponsored by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center in June.

For this year’s event, which is themed around the International Polar Year, the aquatic center pool will be partially covered with plastic sheeting to simulate ice flow cover found in Arctic marine environments. The students will be required to guide their ROVs under the “ice” to retrieve targets in the pool, navigate around the pool, and navigate back to the surface for retrieval. The contest encourages the students to be creative and challenges them to learn techniques used by scientists to study the world’s coldest oceans.

“Remotely operated vehicles 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, education coordinator for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary.

The competition, which is open to the public, begins at 9:00 a.m. and will last until all teams have had the opportunity to complete the required tasks. The winning team will advance to MATE’s International ROV Competition, to be held June 22-23 at Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada. MATE and NOAA are among the many scientific agencies focusing on polar studies in 2007.

In preparation for the ROV competition earlier this year, Gray’s Reef staff conducted a teacher workshop at the Georgia Aquarium and sponsored an ROV building workshop for Savannah area high school students. Events like this contest are an important part of the National Marine Sanctuary Program’s efforts to promote science education and inspire America’s next generation of science and technology leaders.

Designated in 1981, Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary is one of the largest nearshore live-bottom reefs off the southeastern United States, encompassing approximately 23 square miles. The sanctuary consists of a series of sandstone outcroppings and ledges up to 10 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 only known winter calving ground for the highly endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

NOAA’s National Marine Sanctuary Program, which manages the Gray’s Reef sanctuary, 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 sanctuaries and one national marine monument that together encompass more than 150,000 square miles of America’s ocean and Great Lakes natural and cultural resources.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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