Marine robot competitors put their underwater machines to the test

Zoey Tsang


Participants in the Hong Kong Underwater Robot Challenge 2008, organised by WWF and City University of Hong Kong (CityU), observed coral from a glass-bottomed boat and learnt more about marine life in Hong Kong at the final preparatory workshop, held at WWF’s Marine Life Centre in Hoi Ha Wan on 16 February.

The competition between schools is hotting up, with the record-equalling field having completed five mentally rigorous weeks constructing their innovative entries. Teams from 18 of the 21 competing schools attended a series of workshops at CityU in January, with their sights and periscopes set firmly on the finals to be held at CityU in April.

The competition reflects CityU’s commitment to promoting applied research to students and increasing their awareness of environmental protection.

Over the course of the workshops the teams built small underwater remote operated vehicles (ROVs) and tested them in the water tank in the CityU Electronic Engineering laboratory. All of the robots worked well, and the workshops were generally considered to be useful for students’ understanding.

“The workshops at Hoi Ha Wan enable students to relate their engineering work to the real-life marine environment, and we are grateful to the WWF staff at the Marine Life Centre for all their hard work,” said Dr Robin Bradbeer, Associate Professor of the Department of Electronic Engineering.

“The glass-bottom boat trip was very illuminating, even if the weather was so cold! The students also had chance to see the work that CityU is doing at Hoi Ha Wan using ROVs, video and instrumentation to monitor the underwater environment,” Dr Bradbeer added.

Mr Eric Bohm, CEO of WWF Hong Kong said, “Following two previous successful years, WWF is pleased to continue to collaborate with CityU on this underwater robot competition. The inspiration obtained from the real life experience in the workshops, conducted at our Hoi Ha Marine Life Centre, will help these young scientists develop innovative robotic technology that will contribute towards marine conservation in the future.”

Both students and teachers said the trip to Hoi Ha Wan was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about marine conservation.

“We think the workshops at CityU and Hoi Ha Wan were very useful in not just providing us the background about the competition but also helping us to think about our future and our planet. The workshop at Hoi Ha Wan will certainly help our students build up their core values towards environmental protection,” said Mr Tse Nam-ping, Vice Principal of Ng Wah Catholic Secondary School.


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