Marine Institute and National Research Council to host international MATE ROV competition
Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Students from all over the world – and their underwater robots – are set to converge on St. John’s, N.L., from June 25-27 to compete in the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center’s International Student Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition.

Hosted by the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University (MI) and the National Research Council’s (NRC) Ocean, Coastal, and River Engineering (OCRE) facility, the contest requires teams of students to design, build and operate an underwater robot, known as a remotely operated vehicle, or ROV.

An annual event that began in 2002, the MATE competition encourages students from all over the world to learn and apply science, technology, engineering and math skills as they develop ROVs to complete underwater missions that simulate challenges present in marine environments. The competition theme changes every year. This year’s event highlights the role of ROVs in scientific research and the offshore oil industry in the extreme environment of the Arctic Ocean.

Like scientists who work in polar conditions, students will pilot their ROVs under a layer of ice where they will count and sample organisms, deploy scientific instruments and collect iceberg data. They will also use their ROVs to complete tasks related to the offshore oil industry, such as inspecting pipelines and testing deep-sea oilfield equipment, while they battle currents, waves and wind.                                                                   

This year’s complex mission tasks are made possible by the unique features and capabilities of MI, Canada’s most comprehensive centre for education, training, applied research and industrial support for the ocean industries and one of the most respected centres of marine learning and applied research in the world, and NRC, Canada’s premier technology and research organization supporting industry with consulting and applied research services in ocean engineering, coastal engineering, water resources management, marine safety and marine renewable energy assessments, and technology. The host facilities include the following:

  • The largest flume tank in the world, with a water capacity of 1.7 million litres, and water velocity ranging from 0-1 meters per second.
  • An engineering basin that is used to evaluate the performance of ships and structures by testing scale models in various sea states by simulating waves, wind and currents.
  • An ice tank where the water surface can be frozen and the air temperature maintained at a uniform -30 to 15 C used to test the performance of ships and structures in extreme Arctic environments. 

The MATE competition also challenges students to think like entrepreneurs. Students must transform their teams into companies, and respond to a fictional request for proposals for an ROV that can tackle the real-world underwater missions. The student-run companies must also create and present a technical report and develop a marketing display. These elements are evaluated on the students’ ability to communicate what they learned and how they put their knowledge to use in developing their ROV. During the process of preparing for the event, the students develop teamwork, creative thinking, and problem solving skills – skills that will help them compete in the global workplace.

Earlier this spring, teams earned the opportunity to move on to the international event in St. John’s by participating in one of MATE’s 24 regional contests. Regional contests are held throughout the U.S. and Canada, as well as Egypt, Russia, Scotland and Hong Kong.

Five teams from Newfoundland and Labrador will compete at the international competition, including Gonzaga High School, Mount Pearl Senior High School and O’Donel High School in the RANGER class along with Memorial University and Clarenville High School, the 2014 international winners, in the EXPLORER class.

The MATE Center and the Marine Technology Society’s (MTS) ROV Committee organize the ROV competition, which is supported by the MTS ROV Committee, the National Science Foundation and its Office of Polar Programs, Oceaneering International, NASA, NOAA, and other ocean- and science-related organizations.

For more information about the MATE Center, please visit To view the competition streamed live on the Internet from June 25-27, please visit