CAMDEN, N.J. – Engineering students from Camden Academy Charter High School, a part of the Camden’s Charter School Network, participated in the Pennsylvania Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Regional Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Challenge at Villanova University on May 11th.
“MATE ROV is an education program designed to introduce students to robotics/engineering and basic applications of those studies in the field of marine ecology,” Camden Academy physics teacher and MATE ROV advisor Joji Thompson explained. “Students build a remotely operated vehicle and customize it to complete certain “tasks” that benefit an underwater environment,” he said.
Those tasks include a team of students maneuvering the remotely operated vehicle to pick up and remove various objects from a pool and test water quality. The team must also complete poolside tasks such as calculating the volume of certain objects obtained by their ROV as well as mapping out the locations of other underwater objects.
Camden Academy entered two ROVs in this year’s competition, one winning 5th place, the other winning 7th in their division. “We have never placed before,” Thompson said. “And that is up against other teams with $20,000 vehicles.”
Students not only created the vehicles themselves, but they also had to write a 25-page technical documentation on the ROV that they built.
The school’s MATE ROV program is run with the partnership of the Center of Aquatic Sciences at Adventure Aquarium in Camden.
“The Center was looking to expand into environmental engineering, as part of our mission to promote conservation through STEM,” Manager of Academic Engagement for the Center for Aquatic Sciences Brie Ilenda said. “Five years ago, the Center started a MATE ROV after school competition team at Charter,” she said.
According to Ilenda, the program has grown over the years. “The program now includes embedded and after school teams, more challenging robot builds, and entry into additional competitions,” she said.
The benefits of the MATE ROV program are not just trophies and bragging rights.
“ROV teaches design process, application of skills like soldering, measuring, the use of various tools), problem solving, communication, technical documentation, circuit diagrams, and presentation skills,” Thompson said.
“Students learn how to work as collaborative team and how to present their work as entrepreneur/engineers,” Ilenda added. “The MATE PA Regional competition encourages students to plan and adapt under pressure, develop their communication and presentation skills, and exposes them to industry professionals from diverse backgrounds, working in a range of marine engineering professions, she said.
MATE is an international organization that was begun in 1997 with funding from the National Science Foundation whose mission it is to improve marine technological education and encourage students to go into marine engineering professions.