Thu, May 2, 2024 2:18 PM

Young robotics engineers get set for USA


Paula Hulburt

Five members of a winning underwater robotics team are heading to compete in the USA - but one won’t need a seat.

The Marlborough-based BumbleBots squad are set to take on the competition in Maryland in May.

And while the brains of the operation, Claudia Stafford, Sam Richardson, William Davis and Devon Marshall, will travel economy, Emma the aqua bot will be in the luggage hold.

The team are the only South Island team to win a place in the prestigious International Sea Perch competition in the USA.

It is exciting but nerve-wracking says William who says winning the primary school national finals in Christchurch in November was a wonderful moment.

“I was very surprised. I actually started crying,” he remembers.

“We can’t wait to test Emma in America.”

Sounds great: William Davis, Claudia Stafford, Devon Marshall and Sam Richardson have been putting their winning aquatic robot Emma through her paces in the Marlborough Sounds. Photo: Supplied.

NZ AquaBots is the first underwater robotics programme for school-aged children in New Zealand.

The underwater robotics program, run nation-wide by the charity Ministry of Inspiration, tasks school-aged children to build an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle.

Each year the theme of the programme is changed to reflect what is important in New Zealand.

The BumbleBots spent much of the summer out in the Marlborough Sounds monitoring kelp forests using their aqua bot.

“We got to solve problems with engineering,” says Devon. “We used a bit of electronics and stuff which is really handy when it comes to completing things, like making the bot go slower.”

The successful BumbleBot team are raising money to attend a prestigious competition in Maryland and hope the public can help support their trip. Photo: Paula Hulburt

Putting Emma through her paces at Grovetown School pool last week, the team are getting ready for their overseas adventure.

It will be the first time in the USA for all of them and the team and their supporters are fundraising to help meet costs.

A special fundraising dinner and auction will be held on 7 May at Bamboo Garden. Tickets are $45.

Contact Nicky to book a place on: 021 433 488 or email

You can also make a donation at

Visit The BumbleBots Facebook page for more information at

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