MATE ROV Competition

BY Cheryl Milliken

Falmouth High School

Project Description

Since 2009, FHS students have participated on the ROV team to design and build a remotely operated vehicle capable of performing a variety of tasks underwater, manipulating objects underwater. These tasks have been part of the annual MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) ROV competition. Teams throughout New England are eligible to participate in this event. Schools change each year because of the cost and difficulty of the project. At FHS, we recognize the value of this authentic project and have written grants and funding requests over the years to purchase necessary tools, and we reuse parts from previous years to minimize expenses. In fact, the FHS ROV team was awarded the “Bang for the Buck” award for reusing materials. Some schools pay for their competing teams, while some technical high schools incorporate building the ROV into their class curricula. Our students participate in a club after school to accomplish the same goal.

This year, we are in need of new motors to remain competitive. The wiring is also old and needs to be replaced. Finally, purchasing new propellers will make the ROV faster and easier to maneuver. Ten students are currently enrolled on the ROV team to design, build, and compete with the new ROV. In addition, approximately 120 students enrolled in Environmental Science will use the ROV in West Falmouth Harbor to see first-hand the benefits of using a remotely operated vehicle to collect scientific data in the field.

How will the project be evaluated (e.g. how will you gauge its success)

It is most important to keep the team members on schedule in order to meet the competition deadline and the subsequent field trip deadlines. Students typically work better if they have established deadlines, so I will require them to have a working ROV by the end of February to present it to the Falmouth community at our district’s annual Science and Engineering Fair. Students will then have ample time to modify the ROV and practice driving it in pools prior to the competition in the end of April.

Impact to students: Survey students before and after the trip to examine their interest in and understanding of the technology before and after using it.

Impact to team members: have regular reflections from the participants to measure what they are learning and their involvement in the design and building of the ROV.

Benefit to the students and the school

Students on the ROV team are given an authentic experience to work with others to design and build an underwater robot. Many innovative marine-based engineering companies are located on Cape Cod, providing some students with an end goal of employment at one of these companies. In addition, the project reinforces many of the 21st century skills desired for all students, including the ability to work in a team, to communicate effectively, to solve problems, and to learn from failures. Students who have participated in past ROV competitions have demonstrated continued interest in engineering or computer science in their post-secondary education. They have also gained confidence as they are required during the competition to present a poster and to orally justify their rationale for their design. Students grow as they come together and build a cohesive team that emphasizes individual strengths.

Students in the environmental science classes will learn about this technology and witness the benefits of using an ROV first-hand to assist with their sampling at West Falmouth Harbor. Many of these students may struggle in their science courses and may not yet know about ROVs. Some students demonstrate a better ability to learn in a hands-on environment than in an academic setting, so this field trip experience may inspire some students to think more about engineering as a future career or to join the ROV team. New materials should give the members of the ROV team a more competitive edge. In addition, they will be used over the next several years.

Timeline of Project (when will you do the project, if applicable)

October – April: Design and build the ROV for the competition
February: Present a working ROV at the district’s annual Science and Engineering Fair at Falmouth High School
Late April/ early May: Compete in New England Regional MATE Competition at Sandwich High School
Mid-May: Students in AP Environmental Science as well as Environmental Science CP1 and CP2 classes will use the ROV during field trips to sample water quality in West Falmouth Harbor