It is always gratifying to see. Tangles of wire, zip ties, plastic and metal bent and warped into odd shapes, contraptions that occasionally come apart. They may not be pretty, buy they usually work. This is engineering!
The goal? To build and pilot and underwater ROV through a simulated mission. Not an easy task, actually downright difficult. That the engineers and pilots are elementary, middle and high school students makes the results that much more impressive.
This is the fourth year I have helped to judge the 2012 Big Island Regional MATE ROV Challenge. Back again, it is just too much fun to see what the students come up with. Last year I helped judge the technical presentations and posters. While that is OK, the action is in the pool. This year it was poolside judging, getting a first hand view of the event. I was not alone, Keck provided many of the judges for the 2012 event. An investment in the next generation of engineers and techs that will follow our path.
Most of the ROV’s followed the usual pattern we have seen each year. A box frame built of PVC pipe with bilge pump motors attached to provide maneuvering capability. Cameras provide the vehicles eyes. Indeed, the operators must control the craft with only the visuals on the display screen, no looking around into the pool.
The mission this year was to survey a shipwreck, a victim of war, an oil tanker lying on the bottom with the potential to create an environmental disaster. The students must survey the wreck, then attempt to remove a sample of the “oil” trapped within. No matter that the “oil tanker” is a frame of PVC pipes at the bottom of a swimming pool, this was a challenging mission.
There were a number of rookie teams this year. It showed, a rough day in the pool for several of the teams. Experience showed, those teams with a couple years of competitions behind them performed much better. It was Kealakehe that won the Ranger class title… again. Give the new guys another chance next year, and I think the competition will be much closer.