2019 Challenge

Innovations for Inshore:
ROV Operations in Rivers, Lakes, and Dams


Eastern Tennessee, USA, is probably best known for the Great Smoky Mountains (including the national park that bears their name), the cities of Gatlinburg (gateway to the park) and Pigeon Forge (home of Dollywood), and the University of Tennessee (go Volunteers!). Just northeast of these landmarks and attractions lies the city of Kingsport. Less than 5 miles from the Virginia border, Kingsport is home to Bays Mountain Park and Planetarium, the annual summer Fun Fest, and the Exchange Place Living History Farm, where, before it became a plantation and stagecoach horse “exchange” station, Daniel Boone, traveling along the Wilderness Trail, killed a bear and recorded the incident on a beech tree.

D. Boon killd a bar o this tree 1775

In addition to hiking miles of mountain trails with picturesque views, Kingsport residents and visitors can walk, run, or bike along the South Fork Holston River. Like the Exchange Place, the river also has a place in history. On December 13, 1864, the Civil War Battle of Kingsport took place on its banks. Three hundred Confederate soldiers held off a much larger force of 5,500 Union soldiers for two days before surrendering.

Recreational opportunities as well as community events also abound at nearby Boone Lake, a reservoir formed by the impoundment of the South Fork Holston River behind Boone Dam. Swimming, boating, water skiing, and fishing are popular activities on the lake. Each year the Boone Lake Association, one of the oldest environmental groups in the state of Tennessee, organizes the Boone Lake Clean-Up, where the local community helps to rid the lake of trash and debris, including old tires, tree limbs, and lumber.

Boone Dam has also gotten its share of community attention. Owned and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), this hydroelectric dam was built in the early 1950s as part of greater efforts to control flooding in the Tennessee River watershed. In October 2014, a sinkhole was discovered near the base of the embankment, and water and sediment were found seeping from the riverbank below. While sinkholes are not uncommon in Eastern Tennessee, the locations of the sinkhole and the muddy discharge were indicators of potential issues with the safety of the dam. The TVA immediately began an inspection of the dam and continues to work on repairs and remediation to this day, with regulars updates on the “Boone Dam Project” going out to the community.

Along with plenty of opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, discover (or rediscover) American history, and become involved in the community, Kingsport can lay claim to the corporate headquarters of a worldrenowned Fortune 300 company. Eastman is a global specialty chemical company that produces a broad range of advanced materials, additives and functional products, specialty chemicals, and fibers that are found in products people use every day. As a world leader in the diverse markets it serves, Eastman is focused on delivering innovative and technology-based solutions while maintaining its commitment to safety and sustainability.

Eastman believes a truly sustainable company is one that creates significantly more value in the world than the resources it uses. Whether it's through developing more efficient products and bringing innovative solutions to customers, collaborating with world-class scientific institutions to help solve significant global challenges, or working with community partners to have a positive impact, Eastman is committed to enhancing the quality of life in a material way.


This year, Eastman is collaborating with the MATE ROV Competition and looking to its competitors to assist the company in doing “Good for Good.” Eastman has issued a request for proposals (RFP) for a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) and crew that can operate in the freshwater environments of Boone Lake, Boone Dam, and the South Fork of the Holston River. The specific tasks for the ROV and operators include:

  • Ensuring Public Safety – inspecting and making repairs to a hydroelectric dam. Eastman’s stake in the safety and security of Boone Dam extends beyond its company doors to the communities, cities, and state in which it makes its home.
  • Maintaining Healthy Waterways – monitoring water quality, determining habitat diversity, and restoring fish habitat. Eastman commissions studies of the South Fork Holston River on a regular basis to ensure the health of both the water and the species that live there.
  • Preserving History – recovering a Civil War era cannon and marking the location of unexploded cannon shells. Eastman recognizes the rich heritage of the area and the important of preserving historical artifacts for generations to come.

Before launch and operations, the ROV must complete a series of “product demonstrations” staged at a swimming pool at various regional locations. (Depth requirements vary depending on competition class; see SPECIFICATIONS below.) Companies that successfully complete the product demonstrations and deliver exceptional engineering and communication components (e.g. technical documentation, engineering presentations, and marketing displays) will be awarded the contract.


Read a summary of the mission tasks and electrical and fluid power requirements for each competition class below. All product demonstrations will be accomplished in one product demonstration run.

EXPLORER 2019 mission information

RANGER 2019 mission information

NAVIGATOR 2019 mission information

SCOUT 2019 mission information