MATE: The Wondrous World of The Sea

Written by Sky Swarup-Barruga, Highlands Voice:

The Highlands Intermediate Science Club students will be competing against high school teams throughout the state next month for a chance to represent our state at the International MATE Competition held in Canada this summer. Students have been extremely busy for the last two months working on MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education).

MATE is a program that teaches students about technology and sparks the interest of science and engineering in young and aspiring engineers. They are required to build a robot, write up a technical report, put together a display board, and prepare an oral presentation. The most important part about this program, however, is the fact that the ROV (remotely operated vehicle) must perform its tasks underwater. This aspect brings the hardships of technology to an entirely new level. Professional engineers come to Highlands almost every day to mentor students by providing guidance. The ROV, cleverly named “Kaikoa” (ocean warrior) was programmed and built to help marine environments in the arctic. Props and extensions are being built in order to train and improve Kaikoa on its missions. For example, there is a task in which Kaikoa must switch a corroded end of a pipe with a new, undamaged pipe in order to test the ROV on its ability to repair. In order to simulate this, they designed a complex prop comprised of cut PVC and metal components, such as nuts and bolts.

Lily Adcock, an 8th grader who has been in the program for two years, finds the program “relevant and rigorous” to real world engineering.  Despite being new and exciting, MATE is also very demanding as well. Electricity and water don’t exactly mix, which makes it a problem when it comes to building and testing the ROV.  8th grader Kody Kawasaki finds it pretty difficult. “It takes a lot to do technology above water, but waterproofing it for underwater use is so much harder.” he said. “The first time we put the robot in the water, it seeped into the frame!” Because of this, the students are currently making revisions on Kaikoa. Dylan Sodetani, a 7th grader who is new to the program, also finds the program “fascinating and challenging because we have to think of innovative solutions using technology.” Overall, the MATE team has put in countless hours into building the ROV, designing its features, and troubleshooting the problems involved in the underwater environment in preparation for the MATE competition.

Photo provided by Highlands VOICE

Students from the MATE team are working on their research and programming after school.
(from left to right) Riley Sodetani, Dylan Sodetani, Sky Swarup-Barruga, Kody Kawasaki.

Photo provided by Highlands Voice

The MATE ROV, Kaikoa, is resting and drying off after a test run in the pool.