New Partnership Allows for Expansion of Major STEM Initiative in UK

Despite current tough times, the multibillion dollar subsea industry in the UK is still alive and well and the expansion of a new STEM initiative will allow more aspiring engineers the chance to participate in an international competition to design underwater machinery and robotics.

Subsea UK has partnered with Robert Gordon University (RGU) to extend The Scottish MATE ROV Challenge, an annual event purposed to inspire aspiring engineers through hands-on experience of designing ROVs used underwater in the oil and gas, defense, oceanology and marine renewables industries.

“As the industry adjusts to cope with the sharp decline in oil price through addressing inefficiency, cutting costs and making redundancies, in the longer term, we will still need the next generation of subsea engineers and leaders and therefore must continue to attract those young people into the sector,” Neil Gordon, chief executive of Subsea UK, told Rigzone. “We cannot expect to draw young people into the industry if we don’t highlight the opportunities it presents and increase the uptake of STEM subjects.”

Since 2008, the Scottish MATE ROV Challenge has worked with 460 pupils from schools across Scotland. With the support from Subsea UK, BP, ROVOP and other oil and gas companies, it will allow for sustainability of the program and eventual extension to other regions of the UK.

“Some schools have been a part of the challenge since the start and have set the bar higher and higher every year. This has made it challenging for new schools to participate, however MATE has introduced events to tackle this,” Gordon said. “Teachers in Scotland have expressed an interest in introducing these more junior events as a way of encouraging more schools to take part and to allow younger children from schools with established teams to get involved.”

Each year, the tasks – which are based on real ROV missions – become more realistic and demanding. Additionally, a greater emphasis has been placed on entrepreneurship with teams playing the role of companies developing new products.

“MATE ROV and similar initiatives have strong track records in educating young people about oil and gas and giving them a real flavor of its pioneering, enterprising and challenging spirit,” Gordon said. “It gives them a first-hand experience of what is involved and it also puts them in touch with successful individuals and companies operating in the sector.”

Competition themes change each year, depending on the work carried out by the hosts of the international challenge’s final. Past themes have included marine biology, ecology, ocean observing, volcanology, archaeology, submarine rescue and oil and gas exploration and production.

“We can demonstrate how exciting the subsea industry is and how the skills young people learn in the classroom can open up a huge range of career opportunities for them,” Gordon said. “By engaging with those who will drive the sector forward in an interactive way, we believe we can really capture their imagination, inspire those who didn’t know much about the industry and empower the next generation of subsea workers.”

Valerie is an experienced writer and editor dedicated to providing useful and relevant career news about the oil and gas industry. Email Valerie at


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