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Student Underwater Robotics Competition Promotes STEM Learning

The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center's 12th-annual international student underwater robotics competition took place this summer in Federal Way, WA. The competition challenged K-12, community college, and university students from around the world to design and build remote operated vehicles (ROVs) to accomplish underwater tasks.

More than 50 student teams participated, including groups from middle schools, high schools, home schools, community colleges, universities, after-school clubs, and outreach programs from the United States, Canada, China, Egypt, Hong Kong, Macao, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, and Venezuela. Teams competed in one of three classes: Scout, Ranger, and Explorer, for beginner, intermediate, and advanced teams, respectively.

Teams from California high schools won first place in both the Explorer and Ranger class competitions. No winners were announced for the Scout beginner class.

This year's competition challenged students to design and build a remotely operated underwater vehicle that can "deploy scientific instruments and remove biofouling organisms from existing equipment installed on the seafloor, among other tasks," according to MATE. The challenge was based on work being done at the University of Washington, where researchers are designing an observatory for the ocean floor.

Teams competing in the Ranger and Explorer classes were required to demonstrate that their vehicle could maneuver under its own power and complete mission tasks within allotted time. They were also required to present an engineering report to a panel of judges and create a poster display aimed at the general public. They were encouraged to think of themselves as entrepreneurs and operate as if they were a company.

According to information on the MATE Center's site, the goals of the competition are to:

  • Engage students in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) subjects;
  • Expose students to science and technology careers;
  • Encourage students to develop and apply technical, teamwork, and problem solving skills;
  • Provide funds, materials, and technical expertise to support student learning; and
  • Provide industry with skilled individuals who can fill workforce needs.

The Marine Advanced Technology Education Center is a national partnership of organizations working to improve marine technical education and help prepare the future workforce for ocean occupations. It is headquartered at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, CA and is funded as a National Science Foundation (NSF) Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center of Excellence.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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