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International Marine Robotics Competition coming to Kingsport

Staff report • Jun 16, 2019 at 7:00 AM

KINGSPORT — 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 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.

The event will bring 1,300 of the brightest minds from around the world to East Tennessee, some from as far away as 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 Kingsport.

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 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, and associate director and competition director for MATE Center.

What does a MATE ROV competition look like?

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.

To learn more, visit https://www.marinetech.org/rov-competition/.

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