On Sunday June 25 in Long Beach, the Watsonville Firefighters Seal Team 1272 / Aptos High Robotics team won the MATE (Marine Advanced Technology Education) International ROV (remotely operated vehicle) competition.
They took first place overall, beating more than 60 teams from all over the world including Russia, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Middle East.
The championship team consists of nine high school freshmen, one 8th grader and an ROV named the Argo IV. The ROV was built with aluminum tubing and over 30% of its parts were made in a 3D-printer.
Nearly every feature was uniquely designed by the team to perform complicated tasks. For most of the Aptos High team, this was their third year in the program. One of the team members, Pratham Rathi, moved this year to San Ramon so he commuted 1.5 hours each way for their meetings. The team advisors were parent mentors and Joe Manildi, who runs the Aptos High robotics club.
TPG interviewed the team to find out about the ROV’s design, performance and tasks.
What were the ROV tasks?
First task (1) was to aid in the construction of a futuristic “Hyperloop” that can be used by offshore cargo ships to transport cargo containers quickly to shore without having to dock. The second mission (2) was to perform maintenance on an underwater fountain-light show used to attract tourists. The third mission (3) was to investigate the nature of a containment spill underwater. And the fourth (4) was to investigate and map cargo containers on the ocean bottom. How did the AHR ROV approach to doing the tasks differ from some of the other competitors?
How did the AHR ROV approach to doing the tasks differ from some of the other competitors?
We are a young freshmen team that in previous years had competed at the beginner or “Scout” level and later the intermediate “Navigator” level. Our ROV for this advanced Ranger level was an evolution of our “Navigator” level ROV. Our comparatively simple design turned out to be reliable and powerful. Our ROV has no computing ability built into it, but a lot of the ROVs we competed against had a computer in the ROV itself communicating with another computer in the team’s control box.
Our approach was to have the ROV simple and to control its functions using our topside computer. The disadvantage in our approach is that the tether connecting our ROV to the control box bulky and heavier but it makes our ROV simple and light, and more reliable. The ROVs of our competitors often had trouble getting extra points in the competition because they were over the weight limit and malfunctions were difficult for the team to fix.
How did the AHR ROV do for each task compared to the others?
We had the second highest mission score in the competition of 255 out of 300 possible, the highest score achieved was 275. Our ROV moved well through the water and was stable as it performed the mission tasks however we had more trouble collecting contaminants from the pool bottom which we had done easily in practice. This problem gave us our score of 255 instead of the 285 we had expected.
Our keeping our ROV technology simple enabled our team to have more time to practice our missions in a pool rather than finishing designing and debugging more complicated technology. We found in the beginning and intermediate level competitions, having more practice time means our team can cope with the unpredictable things that happen in actual competition. Thus the poolside support and pilot become comfortable making decisions and tradeoffs in order to extract as many points as possible during a mission run.
As an example of how we did things differently than the other ROVs, in one of the missions we were required to turn an underwater valve three rotations in order to close the valve and later rotate the valve back to open again. Most of the competitors ROVs added a motorized attachment to their larger ROV to only turn valves. Our approach was to redesign our claw, which is used in all the missions, to rotate three full rotations in either direction therefor keeping our ROV light and small. This also gave us a significant advantage in other missions by rotating our claw to any angle making other tasks easier. For instance, we could orient the claw’s grip vertically making it easier to carry a lid that the ROV had to place over a box in the contamination mission.
What were the final scores and who came in second and third?
We had the second highest mission score, and for that part of the competition, the point count is the most at a possible 300 points. However, teams also compete in how well the team presents their ROV technology to a panel of engineers who work in the industry that is worth a possible 100 points. Thirdly, the team also produces a technical report describing in detail all of the technology used in the ROV using industry standard practices that is also worth 100 points. Lastly, the team designs a marketing poster that serves as a company introduction and brief description of your ROV for the purposes of “selling” the ROV to customers for a possible 50 points.
Our teams combined score in all of categories gave us a very narrow win, less then 2 points, over the second place team. The second place team was a team from a school in Hawaii and the third place team was from Wisconsin.
Any comments regarding the competition, the organization of the event, the judging, etc., from your team members?
Winning was great, but almost as good was meeting teams from all over the world. In particular we spent a lot of time getting to know teams from Hong Kong and Puerto Rico. It’s fun talking to students from all over the world about how they went about solving the same problems we had been working on all year. You get to swap ideas and stories of failure and success. It makes you realize that technology and science is the same worldwide and by working to the same goals you have something in common with people from very different environments.