2013 Big Island MATE ROV Competition

For the sixth year running I made the drive to Hilo to help in judging the Big Island Regional 2013 MATE Underwater ROV competition. Too much fun to miss!

As usual Keck provided much of the official staff. This is the fault of Keck software engineer Al Honey, the head official, who drafts the rest of us into being there! An engineer from Liquid Robotics and a couple folks from the observatories in Hilo rounded out the judging staff. Add teams from schools all over the island and mix with water to create an event.

A ROV built from PVC pipe and bilge pumps maneuvers the course at the 2013 MATE ROV regional competition in Hilo
The missions continue to increase in complexity. This year the task was a simulated undersea research platform. Various instruments were in need of upgrade or servicing. Opening a hatch on the “undersea instrument platform”, disconnecting power, removing an instrument, installing a new instrument, removing bio-fouling, a long list of tasks, each worth a few points in the final tally. Never-mind the instruments were made of PVC and the bio-fouling was actually pipe cleaners, it still was not easy!

This year I did safety checks and mission judging. We had quite a few new folks on the judging staff so we spread out the experienced judges. As a result I got to judge a couple scout teams before doing the ranger class. The younger scout class may have a somewhat easier mission, but what I saw was impressive. There were several teams who had built great ROV’s and had obviously practiced hard for the competition. They set right into the tasks, working their way right down the list with dispatch and impressive teamwork, racking up impressive scores.

ROV Piloting Team
Students from Kealakehe High School pilot their ROV in the 2013 MATE ROV regional competition in Hilo
The ranger class is tough and it showed. Unlike scout class the operators are not allowed to look into the pool, they must navigate using only what they can see in the ROV cameras. The mission also requires far more complicated ROV’s with additional tools to accomplish the tasks.

The Kealakehe High School team was doing fairly well, off to a good start in their mission. it was then that Pete and I saw an object come off the ROV and flutter to the bottom of the pool, the left thruster propeller. “Hmmm… that isn’t good” It only took the operator moments to realize she had lost a thruster. She could still turn and go up and down, forward and reverse were difficult. The team continued the mission with surprising aplomb, nursing a crippled craft forward to complete a couple more tasks and a few more points.

Scout Class Division 1 (3-5 graders)

1st E. B. De Silva Elementary (Spyfish)
2nd Earl’s Garage
3rd E. B. De Silva Elementary (SEA)

Scout Class Division 2 (6-8 graders)

1st E. B. De Silva Elementary (Boss)
2nd Kalaniana’ole Elementary (Dolphin)
3rd Haili Christian Sch (Little Narwhals)

Aloha Team Spirit Award – Displayed enthusiasm, encouragement, and best team outfits
E. B. DeSilva Elementary (SEA)

Ranger Class

1st Kealakehe High School (Tiki Technology)
2nd Big Island Woodproducts (South Kona Underwater Mechanics)
3rd Konawaena High (Wildcats Robotics)

Special Awards

‘Outside of Da Box’ Award – Innovative and original ROV design
Konawaena Middle School

Rookie of the Year Award – First time competing and fought hard
Konawaena Middle School

Guts and Glory Award – Overcame hardships with determination and resolve
Kealakehe High School

Engineering Design Award – Excellence in implementing engineering disciplines
Honoka’a High School

Enormous thanks must go to Daryl Watanabe, Al Honey, and the lengthy list of other great folks who make the Big Island Region ROV Competition happen. In the end it was Kealakehe who won the ranger class, again. They had better up their game, it looks like some of the younger teams are ready to make a challenge next year.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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