Gulf Ecological Monitoring and Modeling

Remotely Operated Vehicles: another technology

Finnovators4What does the LADC-GEMM project and Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) competitions have in common? Both are using technologies developed for ocean exploration; which can shed insight on the impacts from events such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Alex Turpin of NOAA’s PMEL Ocean Acoustics program, and a leader in the recent LADC-GEMM Seaglider model Educator’s Workshop, just shepherded team Finnovators – from Newport High School in Newport, Oregon- to take top honors in the Regional MATE competition with their innovative ROV designed to collect oil samples and cap oil wells at sea. The team of 6 high school students and their ROV “Ayjacks” now advance to the 15th Annual International MATE ROV Competition, which will be held at NASA’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, Texas at the end of June. The team is also considering using their talents in summer internships at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, to make improvements on the design of the model SeaGliders to be used in future STEM activities.

The difference between an ROV  and an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV: like the Seaglider used in the LADC-GEMM project) or an  Autnomous Surface Vehicle (ASV: also used in the LADC-GEMM project) is simple. ROVs are robots that are tethered by cables to their command station and AUVs are completely autonomous robots, linked to their command stations on shore only through Satellite communications.

The Ayjack ROV’s ‘brain’ lives in the command station.  It’s ‘body’ is the mechanical robot that is sent to depth. It uses a processor called an Arduino for the computer , which can be programmed so that the team can ‘talk’ to the robotic ‘body’. The mechanical bits of the body are a frame that is built out of PVC- some parts were designed and 3D printed by the high school team- and a claw that functions via an pneumatics system which contains 2 actuators (linear and rotary). An on-board pressure housing contains all electronics, including a camera, and there are also temperature and depth sensors attached to the frame. The body is steered using an Xbox 360 controller up at the command station. The controls for steering are very simple: a joystick and a button. The claw, operated with the button, can pick up and carry small objects,  like pieces of PVC.

Ken Sexton of Sexton Corporation and Haru Matsumoto of NOAA PMEL's Acoustics Program judging Team Finnovator's ROV "Ayjacks".Judges Ken Sexton of Sexton Corporation and Haru Matsumoto from PMEL Acoustics Group interview Team Finnovator

Ayjacks is small and lightweight and is fairly portable. Everything was built from scratch so it is unique, and it can withstand at least 5 meters of depth. Ayjacks completes specific ocean-themed tasks set by the competition- collecting oil samples and coral specimens. This impressive little ROV was well-researched and well-tested: the student team was also required to present posters detailing their ROV design and construction, and provide an engineering presentation for judges.

Team Finnovators put ROV Ayjacks through its paces

The Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) ROV competition is designed to challenge students to apply the physics, math, electronics, and engineering skills they are learning in the classroom to solving problems from the marine workplace. The primary mission is to provide the marine technical workforce with appropriately educated workers and to use marine technology to create interest in and improve STEM education.

This year, the Oregon Regional Competition was supported by Oregon Sea Grant (OSG), the MATE Center, the Marine Technology Society (MTS), the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), The Sexton Corporation, Georgia Pacific Foundation, and Oregon State University. Over 40 volunteers from these and other organizations helped run the competition, served as mission and engineering judges, and provided dive support.

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Littoral Acoustic Demonstration Center

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Map of Study Area

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2010 Field Work

Click on the photo to link to a video of previous research, courtesy of Greenpeace.

Dr. Sidorovskaia explains the project

Click on the photo to link to a video of this interview photo courtesy of Manny Garcia, 2010

David Rutter talks about ASVs

Click on the photo to link to a video of this interview

Photo credits

University of Louisiana at Lafayette/Doug Dugas, unless otherwise indicated.