20 teams from 3 states compete at Northern Gulf Coast Regional MATE ROV Competition

by The Dauphin Island Sea Lab

back of 2023 rov tshirt

The Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s Discovery Hall Programs hosted the 10th annual Northern Gulf Coast Regional MATE ROV Competition. The competition has grown in the past decade with more teams and more complex missions that connect to real-world application.

“In the past 10 years, we have grown from a competition of six teams to more than 20 and about 200 people joining us today for the award ceremony,” Dr. Tina Miller-Way, Chair of Discovery Hall Programs, said. “In that 10 years the technology has improved, the sophistication of what the students can do in the classroom has grown tremendously, and this focus is now on STEM education, science, technology, engineering and math. This is a perfect STEM activity for students.”

DHP Educator Greg Graeber added, “It really has been fascinating in the last 10 years to see the changes and not only the ROV’s and the numbers of students, but just the complexity of the missions that these students have to complete to compete in this wonderful opportunity for them.”

For the 10th annual competition, twenty teams from three states competed with their custom-built remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). The competition is a part of the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) network of 30 regional competitions held across the U.S. and worldwide.

The teams included Alabama schools Eastwood Presbyterian Church School of Montgomery, Northridge High School of Tuscaloosa, Gadsden Middle School of Gadsden, Clark Shaw Magnet of Mobile, Alma Bryant High School of Irvington, and Fairview High School of Cullman.

Florida schools represented were Pensacola Catholic High School and Tyndall Academy of Panama City.

Louisiana schools competing were Walker High School of Walker and Acorn to Oaks of Slidell.

remotely operated vehicle in pool for mission

Each year, MATE creates a scenario to inspire and challenge the students to apply science, technology, engineering, and math to solve real-world problems. Focusing on education, the competition is less about winning and more about strengthening students’ critical thinking, collaboration, entrepreneurship, and innovation skills.

For the 2023 competition, ROV tasks addressed marine renewable energy, monitoring water quality and ecosystem health. Students developed a poster or presentation outlining how they designed and built their ROV to complete each mission. This year’s presentation judges were Kari Servold, PE with the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, Grant Lockridge with Technical Support at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, and James Hotard of Oceaneering.

The missions took place on Saturday and the presentations were on Sunday followed by the award ceremony.

There are four challenge classes in the MATE competition. In each class, the missions and ROVs increase in complexity. This year, teams competed in the Scout, Navigator, and Ranger challenge classes.

The winners in the Scout Challenge Class are:

Northridge High School Hydrohelix team

  • 1st Place: Northridge High School, Hydrohelix (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
  • 2nd Place: Acorns 2 Oaks, Water Wardens (Slidell, Louisiana)
  • 3rd Place: Fairview High School, Aggie Anglers (Cullman, Alabama)

The winners in the Navigator Challenge Class are:

Tyndall Academy Aquabotix team

  • 1st Place: Tyndall Academy, Aquabotix (Panama City, Florida)
  • 2nd Place: Walker High School, WABR (Walker, Louisiana)
  • 3rd Place: Northridge High School, Purple Tape (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

The winners in the Ranger Challenge Class are:

Pensacola Catholic High School Crubotics team

  • 1st Place: Pensacola Catholic High School, Crubotics (Pensacola, Florida)
  • 2nd Place: Eastwood Presbyterian Church School, GEARS (Montgomery, Alabama)
  • 3rd Place: Northridge High School, Pure Tide (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)

Each year, specialty awards are presented by the judges and volunteers. Alma Bryant High School’s Fission JIG was recognized as the Rookie of the Year. Walker High School’s Trident received the Buoyancy Award for keeping focused and working to fix a failed circuit board. Gadsden Middle School’s Cete Omura earned the Tethered Together Award for their extraordinary teamwork to work with a blown fuse during competition.

Pensacola Catholic High School Crubotics earned the opportunity to represent the Northern Gulf Coast Region in the MATE World Championship this year. The 2023 MATE ROV World Championship will be held June 22 through 24 in Longmont, Colorado. This is the second year in a row that PCHS will have a chance to compete in the World Championship and they are excited.

The MATE Regional ROV Competition is part of Discovery Hall’s K-12 STEM Programs. The 11th annual Northern Gulf Coast Regional is set for April 26-28, 2024.

More information on the competition can be found on the MATE Competition website at https://materovcompetition.org.

For information and videos of previous competitions check out disl.edu/dhp/stem.