“I never expected to start any robotics practice wearing a bathing suit, but every week I immerse myself in a pool to build an underwater obstacle course while students blurt out instructions like ‘Whoa, no, it should be two feet further to the right!'” said Sea Perch Robotics Coach Jaime Wszelaki. But that is what happens when the elite MMS Robotics Team tests out their newly built underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV).
“We have two teams between us," says Owen. "We are the Tenacious Tunas, and they are the Junior Cousteaus. Right now we seem to have a bit of the upper hand because they are still trying to maneuver their ROV through five hoops without getting their cords tangled. Plus, they are playing around with the perfect buoyancy for optimum speed; the competition in Illinois where we introduce our robots is a race.”
The team that seems to be making the most progress is already working on the advanced underwater obstacle challenge. This challenge requires the ROVs to dive and pick-up whiffle balls and golf balls and transport them to specific nets, buckets, and small holes in a sundry of areas within the pool. “The accuracy needed for this kind of robotic control is tough to achieve, but I feel confident that we can maneuver ourselves toward success,” says Adam. “Samantha is one of our steadiest and fastest maneuverists,” the team concurs.
Before their debut in the swimming pool, the Tunas and the Cousteaus spent eight weeks drafting, soldering electrical control boxes, waterproofing thrusters, building the frames, and making numerous calculations in order to have their robots move with impressive velocity.
There are specific duties assigned to each team member, and they have to talk to the judges about their understanding of the design, programming, launch, and mechanical control of the Sea Perch Robot. Quinn recounts, “We have to be able to discuss our roles with the judges, a team strength because we take on every function at some point to come up with better solutions and designs. The judges will try to gauge how well we can take feedback from one another to solve our ROV’s unique malfunctions in order to create a great finished product.”
Last November, the team welcomed a visit from the Navy’s Senior Chief Officer, Matt Enos, who provided insight and suggestions for the construction of Milwaukee Montessori School’s undersea robots. Since that time the team continues checking in with him once or twice a week via e-mail. “We ask if we can use duct tape instead of spray paint, or make our controllers more comfortable with new mechanisms,” said Quinn. Other questions are about negative and positive buoyancy. “We want neutral buoyancy, thereby allowing us to use just the right amount of thrusting power,” described Quinn.
The 2016 National Sea Perch Challenge on March 19th will be held at the Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois. MMS students will compete head to head with 117 other teams mostly from Illinois and Wisconsin.
We wish the MMS teams good luck. Full STEAM ahead!