More than 1,300 students from around the world are in the Tri-Cities for the 18th annual Marine Advanced Technology Education Internationl ROV Competition. 

This year was the first time Kingsport has hosted the event.

“70 teams from 18 countries are represented here,” Jill Zande, President and Executive Director. 

It was also a day of firsts for many others.

“This is my first time, both to MATE competition and also the U.S.,” said Benjimin Griffiths, a member of team Avalon from the United Kingdom. 

There were also some first-time all-female teams, like the H20 Bots of North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida.

“It’s really nerve-racking,” said Madison McEwen, “but it’s very exciting to put all this work into it for the past few months. It’s really cool to see it all come together.”

I took many many months and long hours preparing for this moment.

“About nine months of blood sweat and tears,” said Trinity James, representing Linn-Benton Community College in Oregon. 

“It’s like you focus on this one ROV and this one design for so long you go around and are like, ‘oh man, we totally should have done it that way,” said Jennifer Smucker, who also represented Linn-Benton.

For the Kingsport based DB-Excel R-Mateys, it was time to defend the home turf in their second year in the international competition. 

“It’s amazing to see all the different people represented from all across the country here in Kingsport, Tennessee,” said Gavin Bentley. 

Teams worked to complete tasks related to East Tennessee with their underwater remotely operated vehicle.

“This year, we wrapped up the competition theme and scenario around Kingsport, around Boone Dam, around the South Fork of the Holston River,” said Zande. 

The event’s goal to help students develop skills needed in the robotics industry.

“This has been the best opportunity for teamwork and learning how these real engineering situations cometogether,” said James.

Officials with the MATE International ROV Competition said this event could someday be hosted outside of North America.

The competition wraps up on Sunday, June 22.