Headline Nov 28, 2015/ ''' THE UNDERDOGS..... VS......THE MIT BEST '''


......THE MIT BEST '''

STUDENT OSCAR  helped persuade a handful of local businesses to donate $8oo, then sent Luis to hardware store to buy PVC pipe, a low tech option but the best they could afford. Student Cristian would have to keep dreaming about glass syntactic floatation foam.

But PVC had benefits. The air inside the pipe would create buoyancy as well as provide a waterproof housing for wiring. Realising they'd need ballast, Cristian's proposed housing the battery system on board in a sturdy waterproof case.

It was a bold idea. If they didn't have to run a power line down to the bot, their tether could be thinner, making the bot more mobile. Since the competition required that their bot run through a series of seven exploration tasks, manoeuvrability was the key.

Most of the teams wouldn't even consider putting their power supplies in water. A leak would take the whole system down. But Cristian argued that if they couldn't figure out how to waterproof their case, they shouldn't be in an underwater contest.

While other teams machines and welded metal frames, the guys broke out the PVC glue and assembled piping one afternoon. They dubbed their creation Stinky. Lorenzo painted it garish shades of blue, red, and yellow to designate the functionality of specific pipes. It was the type of machine only an engineer would describe as beautiful.

After about six weeks of work, the team took Stinky to a scuba training pool for its baptism. Luis gently placed the machine in the water, and they powered it up. Cristian had hacked together off-the-shelf joysticks, a motherboard, five small motors and an array of on-board finger-sized video cameras, which now sent flickering images to two monitors on a folding picnic table.

The first thing they did was smash the robot into a wall. "This is good. This is good," Oscar kept repeating. "Did you see how hard it hit the wall? The thing's got power. Once we figure out how to drive it, we'll be the fastest team there.''

Some months later, as the contest neared, the team had gotten the hang of it. Stinky now buzzed through water, dogging all the obstacles. The pilots could make the bot hover, spin in place, and angle up or down. The team felt like they had good shot at not placing lost.     

They arrived at the Olympic sized University of California, Santa Barbara, pool on a sunny Thursday afternoon. The Carl Hayden teammates tried to hide their nervousness. Lorenzo had never seen so many white people in one place. And the MIT team was intimidating. There were  12 of them  -all ocean engineering, mechanical engineering, and computer science majors.

Their robot was small, with an ExxonMobil sticker emblazoned on its side. The largest corporation in the United States had kicked in nearly half of their $8,000 budget.

As Luis hoisted Stinky to the edge of the practice side of the pool, Cristian could see that their robot looked like a Geo Metro compared with some of the Lexuses nearby.

Once Luis lowered Stinky into the water, the controls worked only intermittently. The waterproof laptop computer case that housed the control system had warped on the trip from Arizona and a few drops of water had gotten in. And somewhere wires were touching that shouldn't be.

Oscar sketched out the bad-wiring situation. They'd have to resolder every wire going into the main controller in the next 12 hours. And they would have either to fix the leak or find something absorbent to keep moisture away from on-board circuitry.
An image from television flashed through Lorenzo's mind . Absorbent? he wondered. Like a tampon. 

Oscar and Lorenzo stayed resoldering the entire control system. It was nerve-wracking work. The wires were slightly thicker than human hair, and there were 30 connections to solder. By 2.a.m. Oscar's eyesight was blurring, but when Lorenzo flipped the power switch, everything appeared to work again. And the tampon was in place, protecting the circuitry.

On the day of the contest, the team's set up in control tents that obstructed their views of the pool, forcing them to navigate by instrumentation alone. One of the tasks was withdraw 500 millilitres of fluid from a container sitting three-and-a-half meters below the surface. Its only opening was a two-centimetre-wide PVC pipe.

The MIT team had designed an innovative system of bladders and pumps to carry out this task. Their robot was supposed to land on the container, create a seal, pump out the fluid.

 But as their  ROV approached the  19-litre drum next to the plastic submarine mock-up, its protruding mechanical gripper hit a piece of the submarine frame, blocking their bot from getting farther. There was nothing they could do  -they had to move on to the next assignment.

The Honour and Serving of this true story as an  ''Educational Operational Research'' continues. Thank you for reading and see Ya all on the following one.

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the World. See Ya all on !WOW!   -the World Students Society:

''' Together All '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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