Ensuring public safety, maintaining healthy waterways and preserving historical artifacts were all on task for students participating in the 18th annual Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) International Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Competition hosted for the first time in Kingsport last month.
Presented by the Eastman Foundation in partnership with STREAMWORKS and Visit Kingsport, the underwater robotics competition brought 70 teams from around the world to the Kingsport Aquatic Center and MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center. Teams had designed and built underwater vehicles, which they then controlled from the surface as they ran through a series of required activities at specific depths. The teams were required to simulate operations to ensure public safety and healthy waterways by inspecting and repairing a hydroelectric dam; monitoring water quality, determining habitat diversity and restoring fish habitats; and recovering a Civil War era cannon while marking the location of unexploded cannon shells.
Promoted beforehand as an event bringing the brightest young minds from all corners of the globe, the competition delivered. The overall winner in the top division (Explorer) was the team from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. Second place went to the team from the Arab Academy of Science Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt. The team from Jesuit High School in Carmichael, Cal., rounded out the top three.
In the Ranger Division, California teams took first and third place – Aptos High School in Aptos and the California Academy of Math & Science in Carson, respectively. The team from the Center for Robotics Development in Vladivostok, Russia took second place. Category award winners came from Taipa, Macau; Xochitepec, Morelos, Mexico; Bombay, India; Newcastle Upon Tyne, Tyne and Wear, UK; and St. John’s, NL, Canada, as well as more than a dozen cities in the U.S.
The MATE ROV Competition was born from the need for capable ROV operators around oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. The competition originally served not only to identify young talent, but also to encourage students to go into fields in science, technology and engineering they might not have otherwise considered.
It has grown into a world-wide competition with regional qualifying events in the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East. Typically held in coastal cities, the MATE ROV Competition has historically focused on robotics in an ocean environment.
Bringing the competition to East Tennessee presented a unique opportunity to demonstrate how underwater robots can be – and are being – used in inland waterways and freshwater environments such as Boone Lake, Boone Dam and the South Fork Holston River.