DB Excel wins underwater robotics competition

Matthew Lane • Apr 30, 2018 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — Students with DB Excel claimed victory at the first ever Tennessee Regional M.A.T.E. Underwater Robotics Competition held at the Kingsport Aquatics Center on Saturday.

M.A.T.E. stands for the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center, headquartered at Monterey Peninsula College in Monterey, California. The center is a national partnership of organizations working to improve marine technical education

Saturday's competition brought in more than 50 students and several hundred spectators from Tennessee, Virginia and Florida. Competing were students from Dobyns-Bennett High School, DB Excel, Sullivan Central High School, Central High School (Norton, Va.) and North Broward Preparatory School (West Palm Beach, Florida).

The one-day event featured a series of simulated challenges within the pool — locating the wreckage of an airplane, installing equipment to monitor earthquakes and completing a renewable energy project. The students had been working since January to design and build an underwater robot to accomplish these goals.

“(The event) surpassed my expectations. We were betting on it and it paid off,” said Dennis Courtney, executive director of Streamworks, the host organization for Saturday's competition. “All of the teams did really well. We preach that not every kid gets a trophy, but it's the experience that's the reward. I think all of the kids received that on Saturday.”

The DB Excel team will now head to Federal Way, Washington, in June for the International M.A.T.E. competition.

The other big news to come out of Saturday's event is the announcement that the Kingsport Aquatic Center will host next year's International M.A.T.E. Competition. Courtney said the event will bring more than 1,500 students from around the world to Kingsport to test their underwater robot skills.

“Boston was supposed to host it in 2019, but a conflict came up. I got the call from (M.A.T.E.) and asked if Kingsport would be interested in hosting. I said, ‘Heck yeah,’ ” Courtney said.

The week-long event will include three days of underwater robotics competition and take place in June 2019.

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