MATES Students Jump Right Into Competition
Jean Sullivian, June 26, 2011
|MATES Students at Mission Control Center, guide Aquapod in the pool behind them as a competition judge looks on. Louis Discenza can be seen in the background holding the riser pipe line)
OCEAN COUNTY, NEW JERSEY
Students from the Robotics Club at the Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science (MATES) recently traveled to Houston, Texas for the annual International Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) Competition. The MATES ROV Team had qualified for the Houston event with their exemplary presentation and demonstration at a preliminary event held in May. They were one of 53 teams from nine countries that advanced to Houston.
MATES students have consistently advanced to international competition over the past several years. This year was another milestone as the high school students were entered in the Explorer Division where they competed against colleges and universities from around the globe, rather than other highs schools.
The competition requires participants to design and assemble a Remote Operated Vehicle which can successfully and efficiently complete a series of mechanical maneuvers underwater. While helpers tend to the cables attached to the ROV, the handlers, or drivers, are positioned away from the pool, relying on cameras mounted on the ROV to guide them through the assigned tasks. Students must also present their design theory and ROV logistics before a panel of judges.
According to MATES Mathematics Instructor and ROV Team Advisor Karen Quigley, of Lacey, “The MATES ROV, dubbed "Aquapod", was built on a steel frame welded by fellow OCVTS students from the OCVTS Jackson Center. Its main feature is an aluminum claw powered by pneumatic cylinders, controlled at the surface with pressure regulating valves. The claw can extend or retract, rotate, and open or close, designed to perform several tasks, as per competition guidelines. Ironically, the Aquapod's primary buoyancy system, aluminum water bottles, garnered a great deal of attention at the competition. Stepping up from the High School (Ranger) Division, the team took on the challenge of a 48-volt power supply in order to compete in the 40-foot depths of NASA’s training pool at the Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston.” Previously the Ranger teams competed at a depth of 15 foot with their 12-volt robots. ”
MATES’ Aquapod performed well under pressure in their very competitive division. Unfortunately, during their mission, one of the air cylinders malfunctioned, rendering the claw inoperable. The team’s limited performance of the mission combined with their technical report and presentations boosted the MATES Team to an 11th Place Finish overall, out of 26 teams in their division. The team also earned the "Biggest Bang for the Buck" award by spending the least amount of money on an ROV that performed well.
The competition is sponsored by the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center (MATE), located in Monterey, California. As per their website (marinetech.org), “the MATE Center's mission is to help prepare America's future workforce for ocean-related occupations. The MATE Center utilizes information from employers to improve and develop educational programs with a focus on marine technology. In addition to being fun and educational, these competitions connect students and educators with employers and working professionals from marine industries, highlight marine-related career opportunities, and promote the development of technical, problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork skills.”