Students to Compete in International Underwater Robotics Competition

The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center's 15th annual international student underwater robotics competition will launch June 23 at the NASA Johnson Space Center's Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston.

The competition challenges students at all levels — K-12, community college and university — to design and build remote operated vehicles (ROVs), robots, to accomplish underwater tasks.

MATE's goal is to encourage students to learn and apply science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, particularly in an effort to prepare them for the future workforce for ocean occupations.

Throughout the school year, teams at all grade levels have worked to develop dual-purpose single-launch ROVs that can operate in the deepest oceans and harshest outer space environments. Using NASA's Neutral Buoyancy Lab — the world's largest indoor pool at 202 feet long, 102 feet wide and 40 feet deep — the teams will have their ROVs conduct a number of tasks.

In the ocean-themed missions, students will use their ROVs to turn a decommissioned oil rig into an artificial reef and collect oil samples and coral specimens. The space-based missions challenge the teams to pilot their ROVs under the ice sheet of Jupiter's moon Europa to collect data.

Teams from around the world participated in 26 regional competitions before 70 were selected to compete in the international event. Each team will be evaluated by a panel of judges from the ocean and space industries on design, construction and performance.

MATE is a national partnership of organizations working to improve marine technical education, 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

Michael Hart is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and the former executive editor of THE Journal.