Bringing underwater robotics inland

In June, more than 800 students representing 70 teams from 18 countries gathered In Kingsport, Tennessee, as the Eastman Foundation, in partnership with STREAMWORKS, hosted the 18th annual Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) International ROV Competition. 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 and are being used in inland waterways and freshwater environments. Held in the HMG Competition Pool at the state-of-the-art Kingsport Aquatic Center, students put their remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to the test with a focus on ensuring public safety, maintaining healthy waterways and preserving historical artifacts.

Eastman’s education efforts to advance science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) hinge on strategic partnerships and initiatives such as MATE and STREAMWORKS to help ensure a successful workforce in the future.

“While the students’ technical and engineering knowledge is impressive, each year I am amazed and encouraged by their collaboration and problem-solving,” said Jill Zande, president of MATE Inspiration for Innovation (MATE II) and associate director and competition coordinator of MATE Center. “Thanks to partners like Eastman, I know that our future technical and engineering workforce is in good hands.”

Top honors in the EXPLORER (advanced) class went to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology’s “Epoxsea,” while Aptos High School’s “Seal Team Scalyr” from Aptos, California, captured first place in the RANGER (intermediate) class. Hong Kong University of Science and Technology has a history of excellence in the MATE competition. The team took first place in 2017 and finished fourth in 2018 and 2016. These students also give back as volunteers at the Hong Kong regional event and help mentor younger teams. Aptos High School also has a history of success. The team won the Monterey Bay regional event the last three years and took home first place at the 2017 world championship in Long Beach, California.