UCSD hosts underwater robot competition

More than 50 teams, representing six countries, competed in the seventh annual MATE International ROV Competition held June 26, 27 and 28 and hosted by Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UCSD.

The underwater robot competition, organized by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center, challenged students, ranging from middle school to university level, to build a remotely operated vehicle capable of achieving simulated tasks associated with the 2008 theme, “Diving to the Deep: Uncovering the Mysteries of Mid-Ocean Ridges.”

“They have a mission they have to do in a certain amount of time,” said Caroline Brown, MATE public relations manager. “The task is based on something they’d have to do in the real world. ROVs are critical technology for marine science.”

Held at the UCSD Canyonview Aquatics Center, teams conducted the ROV challenge in seven feet of water. The tasks students faced this year were to collect accurate temperature readings and retrieve “samples” from the pool floor.

“The first thing you learn,” said MATE volunteer Trevor Fay, “is that electricity and water don’t mix so that’s your first challenge.”

On Friday, each team had two opportunities to complete the specified tasks within a 15-minute time frame. Points were awarded and/or subtracted based on the team’s performance, with the lowest score being dropped.

The purpose of the ROV competition is to introduce students to technical, engineering, scientific and critical thinking skills needed on the contemporary workplace. The volunteer judges actually work in the field, so meeting with them gives young adults an opportunity to learn about marine technology careers.

The annual competition offers two levels based on age and level of sophistication: Ranger and Explorer.

An awards banquet was held Saturday, June 28 at UCSD’s Price Center. The UCSD team won the Aloha Team Spirit award for the Explorer class, and Evan Woolley, the team’s captain, won the MVP Engineering Evaluation award for giving an outstanding engineering evaluation in the Explorer class.

The first-place winner in the Ranger class was the New York City Home Educators Alliance, followed by Edgewater High School (Orlando, Fla.) in second place and Dalbrae Academy High School (Malbou, Nova Scotia, Canada) in third.

Eastern Edge Robotics/Marine Institute of Memorial University (St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada) took first place in the Explorer class, with Long Beach City College coming in second and the California Academy of Math & Science (Carson, Calif.) placing third.