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Brag Books: Tampa students try to win international robotics competition

MATE ROV Competition being held in California
Brag Book Phoenix Robotics team
Posted at 8:04 AM, Jun 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-22 08:04:21-04

TAMPA, Fla. — A group of Tampa high school students isn't just trying to win a trophy, they're also working to change the planet.

This week, the Brooks DeBartolo Collegiate High School's Phoenix Robotics team is in Long Beach, California competing in an international competition.

What the teens created is amazing.

"So our group participates in what's called the MATE ROV Competition. MATE stands for Marine Advanced Technology Education," said Julie Fernandez. "Through this competition, we build a robot that does the tasks that the MATE Organization creates for us."

The MATE ROV Competition uses remotely operated vehicles (ROV) or underwater robots to inspire and challenge students to creatively apply science, technology, engineering, and math to solve real-world problems. The Phoenix team has just 15 minutes to perform the tasks set out for it.

The team's mentor is Julie's father, Eric, a science teacher at the high school.

"So you'll have a task sequence with subtasks to it. That's in the engineering area. You might have to go in, turn a valve to turn something off, maybe there's a leaky oil valve. So you're gonna have to turn the valve. And you've got to pull a cap off this damaged and move it and get another cap and put it in," said Eric Fernandez. "So the students are actually practicing real-world examples of issues that you might have to work on with an ROV."

It took about five months for the students to build the ROV which has six cameras.

"So on the actual machine, there are two grabbers there, we call them claws. So with those grabbers, we can do things like remove damaged cable. That's what that long prop is in the pool over there," said Julie. "We're removing damaged cable. On another one, we're removing a dead specimen of a like a dead fish and putting it into a bucket."

The Phoenix Robotics team is pretty confident. They know they created a winner by taking the state title earlier this year.

"That was awesome. It was very exciting," said Julie. "For me, we've won every year that we've gone to these that I've been here. So my freshman junior and senior year, I had that experience."

Julie just graduated with a 9.2 GPA. She was the valedictorian at her high school. Once the international competition is over, she will start preparing for college. She plans to major in zoology at the University of Florida.

If you know of a child doing great things in the Tampa Bay area, let me know so I can put them in my Brag Book. You can email me at or send me amessage on Facebook.