Trio dive into underwater robot challenge

If robots are the way of the future, three Nelson students are getting a head start.

The trio, Julia Froeling, Finlay Langelaan and Molly Inman, will compete in an underwater robot challenge in the United States in May.

Helping them get there are seven Nelson companies which had staff take part in an aquabots corporate challenge, raising funds towards the students' travel costs.

The teams from Redwood Cider, Opus International, Zebra-Tech, Mitre 10, Paper Plus Richmond, Plant and Food Research and Cawthron each gave $500 in return for an aquabot kit.

In the challenge held at the Hampden Street School pool, they then had to do what the students are already expert at - put together their aquabots and put them through an obstacle course.

The students helped run the event which the Opus team won, with Plant and Food Research runners up and Redwood Cider and Cawthron tying for third.

Everybody had a good time and proof of that was three teams committing to come back for another challenge next year, said Jay Inman, who teaches science and physics at Garin College and introduced the aquabots to Nelson.

He has been involved in the Sea Perch underwater robotic programme for students in the United States.

It is the fourth national SeaPerch competition, involving more than 100 teams with students from every state, that the Nelson trio will take part in at the University of Southern Mississippi on May 17.

Mr Inman said the students would not only be representing Nelson, but also New Zealand as they would be the only overseas students at the competition.

They will face three challenges, an obstacle course, making a presentation to a panel and an underwater heist competition where their aquabot will have to open a gate, go through and pick up an object and bring it back.

In Nelson, aquabotics is run with the Ministry of Inspiration to give students hands-on experience learning about robotics and engineering, and to give them a learning opportunity outside the national curriculum.

"There's a lot interest in robotics and some fantastic career opportunities," said Mr Inman.

The students - Julia and Finlay from Garin College and Molly from Nelson College for Girls - have raised $12,000 for their trip which includes coach Amy Cornelisen, but they still need another $4000.

Anyone wanting to help the students get to the US event can contact or 544 0831.

The Nelson Mail