Ensuring public safety, maintaining healthy waterways and preserving historical artifacts are all on task for students participating in the 18th annual Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) International ROV Competition hosted for the first time in Kingsport.
Presented by the Eastman Foundation in partnership with STREAMWORKS and Visit Kingsport, the underwater robotics competition is set for June 20-22, at the Kingsport Aquatic Center and MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center.
Why East Tennessee and why Eastman?
Typically held in coastal cities, the MATE ROV Competition has historically focused on robotics in an ocean environment. To bring 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. The region's state-of-the-art Kingsport Aquatic Center is an ideal venue for competitors to put their remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to the test.
Couple this idea with Eastman's commitment to advancing science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) education, and the decision to bring the competition to Kingsport was an easy choice.
"The location for the international championship and our partnership with Eastman and the Eastman Foundation is allowing us to expose students to new and different ways that underwater robots can be used to benefit society," said Jill Zande, president of MATE Inspiration for Innovation (MATE II) and associate director and competition director for MATE Center.
Eastman's STEAM education efforts hinge on strategic partnerships and initiatives to help ensure a successful workforce in the future. The company fosters opportunities that encourage innovative and productive thinking in real-world environments. Eastman's partnerships with organizations such as MATE, STREAMWORKS and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution have accelerated ocean science education in this region.
"I'm often asked why Eastman and the Eastman Foundation invest in advancing ocean science, and the answer is simple - the ocean matters everywhere," said David A. Golden, Eastman's senior vice president, chief legal & sustainability officer, and president of the Eastman Foundation. "There's no better opportunity to ensure the future of ocean science than to inspire today's students through real-world educational experiences like the MATE competitions."
What does a MATE ROV competition look like?
The international competition will bring 1,300 of the brightest minds from around the world to East Tennessee, from Kingsport to Hong Kong. Over the last year, more than 740 teams competed in regional competitions across the globe, and 70 of those teams advanced to compete in the international competition.
The MATE ROV Competition requires students to apply math, electronics, engineering and physics skills from the classroom toward solving problems based on real-world workplace scenarios. The competition challenges students from K-12, community colleges and universities within four levels (EXPLORER, RANGER, NAVIGATOR, and SCOUT) to design, build and test underwater robots to complete specified, simulated real-world missions. They also must organize themselves into mock companies, an exercise that encourages them to develop entrepreneurial thinking and business and project management skills, while spurring innovation and collaboration to produce and compete with their ROVs.
This year's simulated mission stems from Eastman's commitment to do "Good for Good." Teams must 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.
"From working to ensure that our infrastructure is safe to monitoring water quality for the health of aquatic species and making certain that pieces of our nation's history live on, these students and their inventions are doing Good for Good," said Zande.
"On behalf of Eastman and the Eastman Foundation, I appreciate Jill, the entire MATE organization, STREAMWORKS and Visit Kingsport for their partnership and passion to advance STEAM education, locally and globally," said Golden. "This is an incredible opportunity to welcome the world to our region, and I could not be prouder of the work that has gone into planning a world-class event. We look forward to an exciting competition!"