Jeff Miller and the Adventures of the Ambitious Axolotls

Four people wearing black t-shirts that read Ambitious Axolotls
Jeff Miller, 2nd from left

This month, we are delighted to spotlight alum Jeff Miller (TAS, 2015). Jeff was one of the first teachers to join the TASAA Project ROVe Cohort in 2021. He participated in the online “Introduction to ROVs” course, which brought together fifteen Teacher at Sea Alumni from across the country to learn about ROVs and marine technology. Jeff also attended the first Project ROVe: Design and Build workshop in 2022 in Newport News, VA where he worked alongside ten other teachers to learn how to build the MATE Pufferfish ROV. Watch this video to learn more about the hands-on workshop.

Man working on circuit board under a table lamp

One of the positive aspects of belonging to the Project ROVe community is being part of a network of vibrant educators AND also connecting to experts in the field. Additionally, the program has a strong connection to MATE ROV Competition, which can lead to further opportunities.

For example, we discovered that as a deep-sea biology professor at Estrella Mountain Community College (Avondale, Arizona), Jeff qualified for a special grant through MATE II to participate in a cohort aimed at increasing community college participation in the MATE ROV Competition. Jeff eagerly accepted this opportunity to implement ROV building at his college, bringing underwater robotics to this desert community.

Over the course of the 2022-2023 school year, eager first-time ROV builders, the “Ambitious Axolotls”, worked hard to build their own ROV and a model of the GO-BGC float to compete at the MATE ROV World Championships.  In June 2023, the team made their way to Longmont, Colorado for the championships, where they were met by over sixty teams from around the world.

Mini ROV floating in a pool

The simple and effective design of the Ambitious Axolotls’ ROV led them to score the highest in their class for their pool demonstration. They proved to have a very nimble ROV as the team’s pilot maneuvered through the challenges. They finished in fourth place overall and are already thinking how they will modify their ROV for next year’s competition!

[All photos by Andrea Schuttermair]

Image courtesy of Dr. Weiru Chang, Estrella Community College

Find out more about Project ROVe by visiting the Teacher at Sea Alumni Association website

or email Andrea Schmuttermair at