Seattle Student Team Demonstrates Underwater Robot at White House Science Fair

Winners of MATE ROV Competition among top students honored by President Obama

WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s not every day that you see a group of students rolling a 400-gallon cattle tank across the White House lawn.

But that’s exactly how a Seattle-based team of students prepared to demonstrate their competition-winning underwater robot, also known as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), at the White House Science Fair, which is being held here today and will be attended by President Obama.

Team AMNO & CO, named after the initials of members Alex Miller, Nicholas Orndorff and Clara Orndorff, was selected to participate in this year’s White House Science Fair after winning first place in the intermediate class of the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center’s 2015 International Student ROV Competition.

Clara is a freshman at the University of Washington; her brother Nicholas and their friend Alex are juniors at Seattle’s Ingraham High School and Garfield High School, respectively. The students will demonstrate how to use their underwater vehicle in a livestock watering tank that they set up on the White House lawn.

The sixth and final White House Science Fair of President Obama’s Administration celebrates the accomplishments of more than 100 top science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students from across the country – the winners of a broad range of STEM competitions held across the United States. During the Fair, the White House transforms into a hands-on showcase of student innovation featuring robots, prototypes and inventions that were researched, built and designed by the next generation of America's scientists and engineers.

To win MATE’s ROV competition, AMNO & CO designed and built an underwater vehicle to successfully complete a complex series of underwater tasks that represent real-world ocean workplace challenges and problems, such as collecting scientific specimens, exploring a shipwreck or capping a leaking oil well. They also prepared a technical report and poster exhibit, and gave an engineering presentation to a group of volunteer judges with expertise in marine engineering and technology.

“We’re really proud of how proficient AMNO & CO has become at designing, engineering and building ROVs since they became involved in our ROV competitions,” said Jill Zande, assistant director of the MATE Center and ROV competition coordinator. “They started with a very basic underwater robot, and over the course of six years, they built upon their knowledge and skills to engineer a much more technologically sophisticated vehicle.”

This summer, the MATE Center is holding its international ROV competition at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, and AMNO & CO will be there. After last year’s win in the intermediate class, the team will compete for the first time in the advanced class. 

“The White House Science Fair is only the beginning for AMNO & CO,” said Zande. “Their knowledge and skills will allow them to take on some of the world’s biggest marine science and technology challenges.”

For more information about the MATE ROV competition and to watch a live video stream of the 2016 event, visit

About The MATE ROV Competition

The MATE ROV competition is organized by the MATE Center and the Marine Technology Society’s (MTS) ROV Committee, and supported by the MTS ROV Committee, the National Science Foundation, Oceaneering International, NASA, NOAA, and other ocean- and science-related organizations. For more information about the MATE Center, please visit


April 13, 2016