The Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University has officially opened its $440,000 Underwater Exploration Laboratory.
The laboratory is used by the School of Ocean Technology to enhance its education of students in the field of subsea robotics and to assist in ocean mapping research.
A small remotely operated vehicle (ROV) cut the ribbon to officially open the facility, which houses state-of the-art simulation software and equipment.
In the laboratory, students learn to pilot ROVs and hone their skills in executing complex underwater tasks in a safe environment – training with the same technology used by industry.
Researchers also use the laboratory to visualize data in high-fidelity, including a team led by MI’s Canada Research Chair in Ocean Mapping, Dr. Katleen Robert, who heads the 4D OCEANS Laboratory focused on mapping the spatial complexity of the ocean from the seafloor to surface.
“The underwater exploration lab enables MI to keep pace with advancing technology used in the field of subsea robotics, ensures our students will be well-prepared to participate in this industry and supports the continuing development of the region’s ocean technology sector,” said Glenn Blackwood, vice-president, Memorial University (Marine Institute). “We sincerely thank our government and industry partners for making this state-of-the-art simulation facility a reality.”
The Underwater Exploration Laboratory’s virtual remotely operated vehicle (VROV) technology was provided by one of MI’s industry partners, GRi Simulations Inc.
Based in Mount Pearl, GRi provides high-fidelity solutions for critical marine operations – from real-time visualization to integrated engineering technologies – to enhance the safety, security and productivity of marine systems and operations.
Key features of the Underwater Exploration Laboratory include integrated pilot stations, launch and recovery simulators, dual simulator capability and enhanced manipulator control functionality.
Multiple levels of funding
The development of the laboratory was made possible with investments from the Government of Canada through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), which contributed $77,495; the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, which contributed $77,495; and the Fisheries and Marine Institute, which contributed $283,707.
Federal minister of Natural Resources, Seamus O’Regan, attended the lab opening on behalf of Mélanie Joly, minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and minister responsible for ACOA.
“We’re delighted to support the Marine Institute’s Underwater Exploration Laboratory, and we commend everyone involved for their leadership in advancing our province’s ocean technology training capabilities,” said Minister O’Regan. “This world-class facility will enable students to gain valuable skills in ROV technology and prepare them for exciting career opportunities in the ocean technology sector, as well as support the growth of our ocean-related industries.”
‘Driver of growth’
Provincial government representatives were also on hand for the ribbon-cutting.
“There is no doubt that the Marine Institute, through partnerships with industry, is at the center of innovation and technology in the ocean industry sector,” said Tom Osborne, minister of Education. “It is creating tremendous opportunities for our students, for industry, for our province and for Canada overall. I encourage all industries to explore opportunities for such impressive partnerships with our post-secondary institutions.”
“Technology is a driver of growth across all sectors in our province – including marine training,” said Andrew Parsons, minister of Industry, Energy and Technology. “The new Underwater Exploration Lab at the Marine Institute will help to produce highly skilled graduates who are taking their ideas and running with them – creating local jobs and advancing ocean technology globally.”
Also attending Tuesday’s official opening were Russell Pelley, president and CEO, GRi Simulations Inc.; Dr. Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor, Memorial University; Dr. Rob Shea, associate vice-president (academic), Memorial University; and Paul Brett, head, School of Ocean Technology, Marine Institute.