When Stephen Crotty joined the Marine Technology Society (MTS) Student Section at the Marine Institute in early October, the Ocean Mapping student got more than a membership. “I was the lucky winner to go to the MTS/IEEE Oceans 2012 conference in Virginia,” says the 21-year old from Conception Bay South.

Crotty reports that Oceans ’12 was an eye-opener: meeting with other students from the US and Canada in the Student Council; visiting the exhibits—he saw an ROV with an Xbox controller instead of the standard joystick; and spending time in the Atlantic Canadian booth. “They were showing off St. John’s for Oceans 2014,” he says. “Pretty much everyone stopped by that booth. They were giving away brochures and pins, and they couldn’t even give them away fast enough!” An added plus for Crotty was meeting a representative from Fugro’s office in Norfolk, Virginia who told him to send in his resume. “She said I would hear back from them in the spring, about a summer employment opportunity,” he reports. 

Cathy Hogan, Administrative Officer, OceansAdvance, was there with the rest of the Oceans 2014 team. “We got the most traffic in the Atlantic Canadian pavilion,” she says, “and probably the most in all of the exhibits.”

Cross-DIscliplinary Connections Among Students and Teachers

A councillor on the MTS Executive (Student Section), Stephen Crotty represents the Ocean Mapping students. Four other councillors represent the students enrolled in the ROV, Ocean Instrumentation, Marine Engineering Systems Design, and Naval Architecture courses.

For MTS chair and naval architecture student Cheryl Slade, this cross-disciplinary connection—not just within the executive but amongst the members—is key to MTS’s appeal. “Even though you’ll find us all in one building [at the Marine Institute] and we’re working towards the same thing,” says Slade,“we don’t cross paths.” But according to her, MTS brings people together from different faculties and different parts of the institute. “I imagine once we start working, we’re going to have to work together all the time,” she says. “If they understand my job and I understand theirs, it can only be better for everybody, and for the industry.”

This 26-year-old who moved to St. John’s from Montreal to study at the Marine Institute, says that among the fringe benefits of involvement in MTS is the opportunity to talk with teachers outside the classroom. “It’s much more relaxing,” Slade observes. “They’re willing to discuss things.” She also likes having other things to do at school besides working on assignments. On Thursdays—when the executive meets—she looks forward to going to school. “It’s awesome,” she says. 

Enthuiastic Membership Drives Increasing Slate of Activities

While the Marine Institute has had a Professional Section of MTS since 2009, the Student Section was launched shortly after Crotty and his fellow students signed up in October—with 140 members. (See “Many Marine Institute Students Join MTS”)  The man behind the recruitment drive was Kevin Strowbridge, a naval architecture instructor who serves as the students’ faculty advisor. He posted flyers around the building and talked to the instructors in the other programs.  Reflecting on how fast the Student Section has developed, he said, “I’m amazed that we have been able to do so much in such a short time frame. That points to the students themselves. They took the initiative.”

Since September, the MTS Student Section has sponsored three events at the Marine Institute:
•    Presentation by Scott Elford on NGRAIN’s interactive 3D simulation software and solutions for maintenance training and support;
•    Guest Lecture by Charles Stirling, Former Head, Canadian Hydrographic Service, St. John’s (Retired), on “James Cook, The Great Newfoundland Survey: The Means of Directing Many In the Right Way”; and
•    Screening of the film, “Atlantic Crossing: A Robot’s Daring Mission”.

Slade values the guest lecturer presentations because “they broaden the spectrum for us,” she says.  “We live in a bit of a bubble.” Now, she’s looking forward to the biweekly Faculty Lecture Series that will kick off in January, which will also be open to members of the MTS Professional Section. The executive is currently planning a networking event in the Mariner’s Lounge for both members and professionals working in industry.

Bringing Students Into the Cluster

Meanwhile, OceansAdvance’s Cathy Hogan (left in photo at Oceans 12 with Karen Appleby, ACOA, and Marcel Montrose of the Oceans 2014 team) has put facilitating this sort of networking for the MTS Student Section on OceansAdvance’s (OA’s) radar. “We intend to partner with them on several events throughout the year,” she explains. “We hope to bring them into the cluster. We want them to stay here and become researchers and start businesses.” Hogan adds that Outward Bound 2015, OA’s strategic agenda to accelerate growth in the cluster, states that encouraging students to remain in Newfoundland and Labrador after they graduate is key. She wants to introduce them to cluster members who were just like them 10 to 30 years ago—students without jobs—who went on to become successful entrepreneurs,” she says, while also pointing to ExtremeOcean Innovation and EMSAT at the Genesis Centre. “These are students with a strong connect to their professors. There are opportunities here that show students you don’t have to go away to be a success.”


The genesis of the MTS Student Section at MI can be traced back to Marcel Montrose, 31 (left). In 2009, as a student in Marine Engineering Systems Design, he co-founded the MTS Professional Section with Dwight Howse, Head of the School of Ocean Technology, and Randy Gillespie, Director of Applied Research. As of December 2012, this  section now has approximately 60 members. 

In late September, 2012, Montrose approached Strowbridge who was looking to connect students with a professional society, and Strowbridge saw MTS as a good match. The recruitment drive followed, bolstered by the incentive that all students who signed the petition would receive a free membership, plus the opportunity for a free trip to Oceans 2012. As secretary of the Newfoundland and Labrador Section, Montrose submitted a petition to the MTS Council at Oceans 2012 in Virginia to start student sections at both the Marine Institute and Memorial University. At that time, there were 140 student members who had signed up at the Marine Institute and 30 student members at Memorial. Nathan Smith, a graduate in the Bachelor’s of Engineering program who was serving on the local executive as student liaison, spearheaded the recruitment there.

Student Benefits of MTS Membership

Montrose is a prime example of how MTS can benefit students. For his part in co-founding the Professional Section, he was awarded the Young Professional Award while he was still a student at the Marine Institute. He also guest edited “The Rising Tide: A Special Issue of Student-Authored Manuscripts” in the Marine Technology Society Journal, “which has given me soft skills to accompany my technical expertise,” Montrose says. He had gotten to know John Butler, Assistant Commissioner of the Canadian Coast Guard, who had served with him on the executive since the beginning.

After receiving his Diploma of Technology in Marine Engineering Systems Design in the spring of 2010, Montrose worked on several part-time contract jobs and in retail and warehousing, before serendipity struck. “I think it was due to MTS that I got the kind of job I was looking for,” he says, explaining that when Butler travelled on the Louis St. Laurent up the coast of Labrador, the Chief Engineer on board mentioned the need to update some drawings to reflect the current state of the engineering systems. Butler referred Montrose. “And lo and behold,” he reports, “here I am, starting to work on the Louis!” He worked there for four months, and a position opened up in the Marine Engineering Division at the Coast Guard’s St. John’s office, where he currently works.

Montrose’s good fortune in landing a job in his field echoes the experience of Ryan Vandermeulen of Biloxi, Mississippi, a Student Representative to MTS Council, who is currently working as a remote sensing analyst, thanks to people he met through MTS. (See “Opportunities for Students Abound at the Marine Technology Society”)
Volunteering as a student poster judge for Oceans 2012 set the stage for Montrose’s current activity as chair of the Student Content Committee for Oceans 2014 in St. John’s. “I got to follow the process right through,” he observes, adding he now has a good idea how to organize the student poster committee. “I saw an opportunity to improve on what was done before. Had I not gone to the conference, I don’t know if I would have realized this was an opportunity.”

Reflecting on what he has gotten out of MTS, Montrose says, “I don’t think students fully grasp the advantages of becoming active in MTS. I know because I’ve seen it firsthand. I’d like to be able to get that message out.”

Stephen Crotty, who became an MTS member three months ago, says, “Who knows where this will take me, but I’m sure it will take me to a good place.”


See Also this story from the Memorial University Gazette.