On Saturday, May 11th, from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, the MATE Pacific Northwest Regional ROV Challenge will see teams of middle school, high school, and college students, compete using underwater robots known as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) they designed and built. The event will be held at the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center in Federal Way (650 SW Campus Dr) and is free to all.

This ROV Challenge is an annual event for students from all over Washington State, as well as British Columbia, to learn and apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills as they develop ROVs to complete missions that simulate real-world problems in the ocean workplace. ROVs are tethered underwater robots used in scientific research, ocean exploration, homeland security, and the offshore oil and gas industry.

This year’s contest highlights the role that ROVs play in the installation, operation, and maintenance of cabled ocean observing systems. These systems consist of many high-tech instruments providing 24/7 information about a large ocean region via fiber-optic and copper cables on the seafloor. Instruments are continuously powered and communicate data ashore in real-time to help understand ocean climate as well as sudden events, such as seafloor volcanic eruptions.

Teams participating in this Challenge will pilot their ROVs to install a simulated power and communications “hub” and scientific instruments in order to complete a seafloor ocean observatory. They will also perform maintenance on a mid-water mooring and remove bio-fouling.

Students are encouraged to think as entrepreneurs and form companies to design and manufacture specialized ROVs and services. This requires them to solve problems in new and innovative ways, think creatively, work as a team, and understand all aspects of business operations—important skills to help make them competitive in today’s global workplace.

The MATE Pacific Northwest Regional ROV Challenge is supported by the Puget Sound Section of the Marine Technology Society, the University of Washington, ExploreOcean, Global Diving and Salvage, and Rolls-Royce Marine. Local marine technology professionals volunteer as judges for the competition, evaluating the students’ ROVs, poster displays, and engineering presentations.

The event is one of 22 regional contests held around the world and managed by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center. The contest’s winning teams will earn the opportunity to compete in the 12th annual MATE’s international ROV competition, which will be held June 20-22, 2013 at the same facility in Federal Way.

For more information, please contact Fritz Stahr at stahr@uw.edu