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posted: Tue, Nov 20th, 2018

Making underwater strides with M.A.T.E.

The Marine Advanced Technology Education, or M.A.T.E., program at Mount Olive High School may be relatively new, but the students and faculty involved are making big strides in the field of underwater robotics and care for marine life.

Mr. David Bodmer, MOHS teacher and program director for M.A.T.E., has helped provide students with real-world applications of what they are learning. Advisors Mr. Bodmer and Mrs. Jennifer Kalkunte recently brought in Sea Turtle Recovery experts, Bill Deerr and Brandi Biehl, from the Turtle Back Zoo, to speak with students and guests about the Loggerhead ROV program and marine life conservation (pictured above).

Abby Faluotico said, "The purpose of the Sea Turtle Recovery night was to raise awareness for Sea Turtle Recovery as well as raise money for them, as they are a non-profit organization operating out of the Turtle Back Zoo. STR is a separate organization from the zoo and other turtle organizations, so they often don't receive the funding that many people believe they do."

Kathleen Wooster, MOHS student, said of the speakers, "They are very passionate about their work with rehabilitating sea turtles, and it was important to me because I would like to be a marine biologist."

Last year, the M.A.T.E. program at MOHS adopted a loggerhead sea turtle named Tammi, that had been found by the National Guard off the coast of New Jersey. Faluotico said, "She was unable to dive and had a lot of barnacle and algae growth on her shell. Once STR picked her up and removed the growth, they found propeller wounds on her back from when she had been hit by a boat."

After rehabilitating the turtle, the team released Tammi back into the ocean. According to the data on her tracking chip, she has been swimming up and down the New Jersey coastline and began to swim south for the winter as of October 26th.

Back in June, several of the M.A.T.E. students attended the 2018 M.A.T.E. International ROV Competition in Seattle, where students from 19 different countries competed in various underwater tasks with their robots. The theme for the 2018 competition was aircraft recovery in the ocean. Megan Perry, a student who attended the competition said, "We were challenged to do things like identify the name of a 'sunken plane' or recover its 'black box'. All of these activities were replicated through the use of milk crates, pipes, and other simple and water-resistant props."

The competition also fostered cooperation among teams from different schools, as they sometimes worked together to reach a common end goal, assisting each other with de-fogging underwater camera lenses and repairing air compressor pumps.

Perry said, "In the pits alone, we shared a workspace with a team from Connecticut and one all the way from Egypt. On our downtime it was so cool to be able to interact with these students and learn more about their homes and cultures. Through this we made many new contacts, and by visiting other teams' pits we were able to get a closer look at their ROVs and see how they designed theirs to accomplish the same tasks. This will help us in future years, as we can draw on what we learned from other teams as we consider our design."

Matthew Folenta, MOHS student and team member, described the accolades received by the group at competition: "We came home with the Aloha Spirit Award as well as the title of 15th of the 37 teams that qualified and attended. To the team, it marked the first time the name 'Loggerhead ROV' appeared on the roster for the International Competition. It meant that in just our second year, our name appeared on that list of world-class teams from around the globe."

Several MOHS students were also featured in a video shared by the M.A.T.E. Center. The team is looking forward to competing at several events throughout the school year and is hoping to compete in the international competition again.

Additionally, M.A.T.E. is currently collecting supplies and donations for Sea Turtle Recovery in West Orange to help cold-stunned turtles from New England. STR will take in several surviving sea turtles for urgent care once they are well enough for transport. The Loggerhead ROV students are collecting the following items through unit lunch on Friday, November 30th which can be dropped of in the MiLL, with Mr. Bodmer: used laptop computer, small exam gloves, medium exam gloves, large exam gloves, paper towels, free and clear laundry detergent, dish sponges with scrub side, small or regular size bottles of Dawn dish soap, 4 x 4 inch gauze, postage stamps, tall kitchen trash bags (heavy duty). Donations can also be submitted in the form of gift cards to Amazon, Home Depot, CVS, and Staples for various supplies and equipment needed by the STR team. M.A.T.E. would like to thank everyone for their continued support.

Mount Olive High School
18 Corey Road Flanders, NJ 07836
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