MATE ROV Great Lakes Regional Competition helps students learn importance and application of underwater technology

May 10, 2019 — MATE Great Lakes Regional ROV Competition is challenging local students to create an underwater robot to ensure public safety, help uphold healthy waterways and preserve historical artifacts. The students’ robots will be on display in the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center campus on Saturday, May 11, 2019.

An annual event, the MATE Great Lakes Regional ROV Competition encourages students from the Great Lakes area to learn and apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they develop underwater robots – also known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) – to complete missions based on real-world issues and events.

The competition theme and missions change each year. Because the international competition will take place in Kingsport, Tennessee, this year’s contest will highlight the role ROVs play in inland waterways, including where history plays a significant role. This part of the country has Civil War artifacts that need careful recovery. Not only that, man-made structures and the landscape, which includes Boone Dam, the Great Smoky Mountain range and Daniel Boone’s Wilderness Trail, need repair, restoration and preservation.

Through this competition, students are also being exposed to business practices because they are tasked with creating mock companies and must work together to “manufacture, market and sell” their products, i.e. their ROVs. This simulated company approach promotes the development of entrepreneurship and leadership skills as students manage a project and budget, brainstorm solutions, prepare reports and poster displays, and deliver presentations, which is necessary in future careers.

The following schools are participating in the competition:

  • Alpena: Alpena High School “Underwater Research Robots (UR2),” Thunder Bay Junior High “Hur-on the Bottom,” and Thunder Bay Junior High/Ella White Elementary “Narwhals”
  • Petoskey: Three Teams -“St. Francis 1,” “ Francis 2,” and “St. Francis 3”
  • Stockbridge: Stockbridge High School “InventTeam”
  • Rogers City: Rogers City Schools/Presque Isle Library “RC R.O.V.”
  • Alcona: Alcona Schools/4-H “Pirates,” “Flaming Dragons,” and “Pineapples”
  • Marlette: Marlette Community Schools “Neptune Engineering”

This year, the MATE ROV Great Lakes Regional Competition is supported by sponsors that include NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, First Federal/mBank Community Foundation, and Friends of Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Partners include Alpena Community College Marine Technology and Drone Program (drone & ROV mobile van command center), Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping Joint Hydrographic Center (Autonomous Surface Vessel BEN), Hammond Bay Biological Station, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (volunteer divers), Michigan State Police Marine Unit (mobile ROV and diving unit), MISTEM Network Northeast Michigan Region, Michigan State University Extension/4-H, Ocean Exploration Trust (Nautilus Live), PhoticZone, and The Wright View. Local professionals, including engineers and inventors, volunteer as judges for the competition, evaluating the students’ ROVs, poster displays, and engineering presentations.

The MATE ROV Great Lakes Regional Competition is one of 36 regional contests held around the world and managed by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center and MATE for Inspiration and Innovation (MATE II). The winning teams will earn the opportunity to compete in the 18thannual MATE international ROV competition, which will be held June 20-22, 2019, at the Kingsport Aquatic Center and MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA.

The public is invited to attend the competition and cheer for their local teams. Registration begins at 8:30 am with the kick-off at 9:30 am. The competition starts at 10:00 am. There will be a lunch break at noon. The competition start up again from 12:30 and finish at approximately 2:30 pm.

At 3:00 pm, students and guests will have the opportunity to interact with Dr. Robert Ballard, one of the world’s best known deep-sea explorers. Using telepresence technology, Dr. Ballard will visit live from his research vessel, Nautilus. A pioneer in the development of advanced deep submergence, Dr. Ballard is best known for his historic discoveries of hydrothermal vents, the sunken R.M.S. Titanic, the German battleship Bismarck, and numerous other contemporary and ancient shipwrecks around the world. The remote communication will take place from the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center theater. Awards will follow at 3:30 pm.

Opportunity to see technology in action at sanctuary’s annual underwater robotic student competition

From May 6-17, Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (TBNMS) is collaborating with Dr. Bob Ballard’s Ocean Exploration Trust to map unexplored areas of northern Lake Huron with multi-beam sonar. Deploying an autonomous surface vehicle (ASV) from the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping, this mission is focused on mapping unexplored, expanded sanctuary areas, with a goal of discovering new shipwrecks and identifying shipwreck locations to support ongoing exploration and management.

On Saturday, May 11, the ASV, also known as BEN (Bathymetric Explorer and Navigator), will travel south to Alpena to survey in the Thunder Bay River during the sanctuary’s annual ROV (remotely operated vehicle) competition. ASV BEN is operated from a mobile lab on shore, and will provide an exciting opportunity for students and the public to see cutting-edge technology in action, and also interact with visiting hydrographers, surveyors, and other marine scientists.

WHAT:Autonomous Surface Vessel in Thunder Bay River

WHEN:Saturday, May 11, 2019, 10a – 3p

WHERE:Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, 500 West Fletcher Alpena, Michigan 49707 VIDEO/PHOTO NOTE: High-resolution stills and video available. Press passes available.

The 4,300 square-mile Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuaryworks to protect the Great Lakes and their rich history. Lake Huron’s cold, fresh water preserves nearly 200 historic shipwrecks. Through research, education, and community involvement, the sanctuary and its partners ensure that future generations can enjoy Thunder Bay’s irreplaceable underwater treasures.

The sanctuary’s visitor center, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center, is free and open year round. A popular destination for residents and visitors of all ages, the Center allows the public to experience and appreciate the shipwrecks in and around Thunder Bay. Visitors can also see shipwrecks from a glass bottom boat, or paddle, snorkel, and dive the wrecks in the sanctuary.

Visit the sanctuary at www.thunderbay.noaa.govand at

For more information, contact Stephanie Gandulla at