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Diving into real world challenges

Bridging the disconnect between the classroom and the real world brings learning alive, as this marine robotics program demonstrates.


ore than 8,500 oil-bearing ships lie on the world’s ocean floor. Some of these ships, including the USS Arizona, leak their hazardous cargo into our oceans every day. Does this sound like a “real

world” problem? The new California Common Core Standards refer to “real world” learning 49 times in the mathematics standards alone. How do we as educators engage our students in real world learning using their academic knowledge and technical skills? Long Beach City College and Long Beach Unified School Dis-

trict, as well as many other districts, have discovered that the world of robotics can help students use technical skills to solve simulated problems found in the real world, while understanding the rele- vance of challenging academics. The Marine Advanced Technol- ogy Education (MATE) Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) student competition is a program that does just that.

The MATE ROV student competition The Marine Advanced Technology Education Center is one of

many valuable industry/education resources that creates new cur- ricula that include student competitions based on real world prob- lems. Employers help design these curricula that build upon the requisite skills for marine-related occupations, such as ship-board (research) technician, remotely operated vehicle technician, hydro- graphic survey technician and oil spill response technician. Many of these occupations are technically advanced, high paying jobs that require specialized academic knowledge and technical skills.

12 Leadership The international student underwater robotics competition

is coordinated by the MATE Center, which includes a network of 21 regional ROV contests that take place across the United States and internationally. Participating student teams are from upper el- ementary, middle schools, high schools, home schools, community colleges, universities and community organizations. In addition to building technical knowledge and skills, the event

helps students develop the ability to problem-solve, think critically, and work as part of a team. By connecting students with employers and professionals, the competitions also expose students to ocean- related career opportunities and to the pathways to those careers.

Mission possible! The academic and technical challenge Long Beach City College Robotics instructor Scott Fraser is the

driving force behind the student competition, with support from Long Beach City College, Monterey Peninsula College and the Na- tional Science Foundation. The student teams act as entrepreneurial companies that re-

spond to a request for proposal from a “client,” which is the MATE Center. They are challenged to design and develop an underwater robot, using half-inch PVC pipe, a propulsion system using 12 volt waterproofed motors, adapted underwater 12 volt cameras and lots of ingenuity in order for the robot to accomplish the various tasks

By Matt Saldaña and Leslie Rodden

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