On Saturday, May 20, 2023, ten student teams from the Olympic Peninsula met at Forks Athletic and Aquatic Club to compete at the Olympic Coast MATE ROV Competition. This annual event, hosted by NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, encourages students to learn and apply science, technology, engineering and math (S.T.E.M.) skills as they develop underwater robots – also known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) – to complete missions based on real-world issues and events. This year, participating teams included students from Forks Intermediate School, Lake Quinault High School, Neah Bay High School, Quileute Tribal School, and the Port Townsend STEM Club.
The 2023 competition highlighted the roles that ROVs may play to support alternative energy, managing healthy waterways, and monitoring endangered species, as well as a challenge that highlighted the real-life application of long-term oceanographic moorings. Throughout the competition, students were tasked with completing product demonstrations in the pool with their robots, as well as creating team companies and working together to manufacture, market and “sell” their team products. This simulated company approach promotes the development of entrepreneurship and leadership skills, as students manage their project and budget, prepare marketing displays and deliver engineering presentations, which may be necessary in future careers.
Following the day-long competition, an awards ceremony was held to acknowledge the hard work and accomplishments of the student teams. This year, two Forks teams took first place in their class categories, including “Forks Whales” in Scout class and “The Blobbies” in Navigator class. The Mentor of the Year award went to Quileute Tribal School teacher Alice Ryan.
Olympic Coast MATE ROV Competition is supported by local sponsors, including NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, North Pacific Coast Marine Resource Committee, and Surfrider Foundation Olympic Peninsula Chapter. Local professionals and community members volunteer as judges for the competition, evaluating the students’ ROVs, marketing poster displays, and engineering presentations.
In March 2023, the Port Townsend STEM Club and NOAA Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, with support from North Pacific Coast Marine Resources Committee, co-hosted an ROV build workshop for students and mentors to help prepare students for the competition.
Additionally, a world qualifying Ranger level team from Whidbey Island, “Cyance”, came to the competition to provide support through judging and general ROV know-how.
The Olympic Coast MATE ROV Competition is one of more than 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 winners for the 2023 Olympic Coast MATE Competition were:
1st place – Forks Whales (Forks)
2nd place – Enterprize (Forks)
3rd place – Team #1 (Neah Bay)
1st place – The Blobbies (Forks)
2nd place – Aqua Pack (Quileute Tribal School)