“Mr. O”, a high school junior and participant in KRA’s Portsmouth Youth Employability and Success (YES) program, is currently participating in an intense project, part of his technology class, to prepare him and seven classmates for the 2011 MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) Competition. The MATE Center (the Center) and the Marine Technology Society’s ROV Committee coordinate this underwater robotics competition that includes a network of 20 regional contests that take place around the world. Students from elementary through college level apply to participate in the competition, which includes three “classes” of ROVs that vary depending on their complexity and the mission requirements. The Center uses underwater robots as a way to get students excited about “STEM” (science, technology, engineering, and math) classes, and to help them appreciate the everyday, practical applications of these subjects.
This year marks the 10th year of international competition, and highlights the challenges that ROVs faced during the Gulf of Mexico deepwater oil spill. In the U.S., the competition is being hosted by the Neutral Buoyancy Lab at the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, from June 16 – 18, 2011. Part of Monterey (CA) Peninsula College, the Center is national in scope, but works through regional partnerships to create new curricula, collect information from employers, and share ‘best practices’ related to Marine Technology Education (MTE). The Center and its partners have developed several curriculum modules and programs including: an introduction to Aquaculture, career scenarios for the classroom, technology-rich lab exercises, high school pathways, and a new A.S. degree program. Also, the Center collects information from employers as to what skills, knowledge, and abilities are needed for select marine-related occupations. Inspired by the Center’s vision and mission, KRA has begun its own initiative to include STEM-related activities and projects in the Norfolk YES program, as MTE and STEM-related careers…ship-board (research) technician, ROV technician, hydrographic survey technician, oil spill response technician, and aquaculture technician…are growing steadily. Needless to say, Mr. O is beside himself with excitement about the June competition and his trip to Texas. And, all of KRA will be cheering him on!