Headline Nov 29, 2015/ ''' TOGETHER : *THESE AMAZING STUDENTS! "'



AS STINKY entered the water, Lorenzo prayed to the Virgin Mary that their fixes would work.The bot careened wildly as it dived towards the bottom. 

Inside the control tent, Cristian and Oscar were nervous. They overcompensated for each other's joystick movements, causing Stinky to veer off course. Then they settled down and knocked off the first two tasks.

When they reached the submarine, they saw the drum and tried to steady the robot. Stinky had a bent copper proboscis, a bilge pump and a dollar-store balloon. The control tent was silent. Oscar tapped the control forward while Cristian gave a short backward blast on the vertical propellers.

Stinky floated forward  a centimetre, its rear raised up, and the sampling pipe sank perfectly into the drum. "Dios mio," Oscar whispered, not fully believing what he saw. 

They had allotted themselves exactly 20 seconds to fill the balloon with 500 millilitres of water.
Oscar looked at Lorenzo, who had activated the pump. He was counting out 20 seconds in a decidedly low-tech way :
"Uno, dos, tres, quarto..........."

Tom Swean was the gruff 58-year old head of the Ocean Engineering and Marine Systems team in the office of Naval Research. He stared solemnly at Carl Hayden team standing nervously in front of him.

This was the engineering review; professionals in underwater engineering evaluated all the  ROVs, scored each team's technical documentation, and grilled students about their designs. The review results counted for more than half of the total possible points in the contest.

"How'd you make the laser range finder work?"  Swean asked. The MIT team had admitted earlier that a laser would have been the most accurate way to measure distance underwater, but had concluded it would have been difficult to implement.

"We used a helium neon laser, and manually corrected by 30 per cent to account for the index of refraction." Cristian answered rapidly, keyed up on adrenaline.

Swean raised a bushy, greying eyebrow. He asked about motor speed, and Lorenzo sketched out their combination of controllers and spoke relays.
Oscar answered the question about signal interference in the tether by describing how they'd experimented with a 15-metre cable before jumping about to 33 metres.

"You're very comfortable with the metric system," Swean observed.
"I grew up in Mexico," Oscar said.
Swean eyed their rudimentary flip chart. Thinking he might be wondering why they didn't have PowerPoint display, Cristian said that it's a sophisticated distraction . "People use it when they don't know what to say."

Cameron glanced nervously at Ledge.  Coming out off the review room, the kids were too confident. They couldn't have done that well. Still, both teachers were in a good mood. Their team had placed third out of 11 in the underwater exercises. 

Only MIT and Cape Fear Community College from North Carolina had done better. "Congratulation guys," Cameron said. "We officially don't suck."
"Can we go to Hooters if we win?" Lorenzo asked.
"Sure," Ledge said with a laugh.

The awards ceremony took place over dinner, and the Carl Hayden team dug in heartily. "The second award was the Judges' Choice  award, explained Bryce Merrill, the announcer. It went to a team that made a special impression on the judges. Carl Hayden High School, he said, was the special team.

The guys trotted up to the stage with sheepish smiles .It seemed like a consolation prize.
After a few small prizes were handed out, like Terrific Tether Management and Perfect Pickup Tool, Merrill leaned into the mike and said that the Carl Hayden team had captured the Design Elegance award.

"What did he say?" Lorenzo asked.
"Oh, my God!" Ledge shouted. " Stand up!"

Merrill moved on to the final awards. The MIT's students shifted in their seats. They had been forced to skip the fluid sampling, but had completed more underwater tasks than Carl Hayden or Cape Fear. The Cape Fear team fidgeted with their napkins.

Before they could settle down from their second time onstage, Merrill was announcing Carl Hayden High School's name yet again. They had won the Technical Report award.

Cristian who had been responsible for a large part of the writing , was beaming. To his analytical mind, there was no possibility that his team, former English-as-a-second language  students, could produce a better writing report than the kids from one of the top engineering schools.

The boys had just won three awards. All of the others had been announced. The only one left was First Place. Suddenly Ledge leaned across the table and grabbed Lorenzo's shirt.
''Lorenzo, if what I think is about to happen does happen, I do not under any circumstances, want to hear you say the word Hooters onstage.''

''And the Explorer class First Place champion for the 2004 Marine Advanced Technology Education Center's  ROV   Competition,'' Merrill continued, looking at the crowd,...... '' goes to Carl Hayden High School of Phoenix, Arizona!''

Lorenzo threw his arms into the air, looked at Ledge, and silently mouthed the word Hooters.

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

''' For Unseen Students '''

Good Night and God Bless

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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