After some of our members staying up till 3:30 AM, waking up and getting to TRANSDEC by 5:30 AM was not gonna happen. We did get to TRANSDEC by 7:30 AM where we found out that the practice slots were all full and there were 15 teams waiting for a slot at 5:30 AM. Dedicated much?
We were put on a waitlist and was told to check with Dave once in a while to see if one of the teams had given up on their practice slot. That was a lot to hope for so there was a bit of pressure on today's 10 AM semi-final slot. Before the run, everything was going well, the LED lights indicated that everything was on. Even after it was sealed and in the water, everything was good. During the first try, Aqua Ursa got through the gate, very close the right edge but still made it, and was a foot above and to the right of the green buoy. We got the diver to "kill" the robot and bring it back where Veselin connected it to his laptop to change the depth. During these runs, Mike and Michael each had radios so that Michael can tell Mike around where the green buoy is for him to aim and hopefully hit it. On our second try, Aqua Ursa went through the middle of the gate and headed for the buoys. From where I was standing, it didn't seem like it was going to hit anything but as the robot got closer to the buoys, it looked like it was in-line with the green buoy. Aqua Ursa hit the green buoy dead on and it was a moment "Yes!". We had 20 more minutes in our semi-final time slot but our goal was the gate and the green buoy and with only the last run counting per day, we stopped thinking that we might not hit the green buoy again.
We got Aqua Ursa out and back to our tent, checking yet again if anything had dropped out of their practice slot but no, it was still full. Today is a lot chillier than other days, with no sunlight. An announcement was made that it might rain today and the cloudy skies backed up their point. I regret wearing short shorts today, should have worn pants. The cloudy weather didn't go away but did its worse and started raining, first a drizzle then a lot then back to a drizzle, then a lot again, just because it can. One of the guys walking by was from San Diego and he was exclaiming how it only rains 6 times a year and I could only think what bad luck we have to be here in such a "rare" moment. Exactly when the rain was starting to get heavy, the 5 o'clock films team was doing their round of interview and had to shield themselves and their expensive camera from the rain so they joined us in our small tent. It was a nice few minutes of sharing personal space. Turns out the girl doing the interviews has a PhD in Mechanical Engineering.
As the rain slowed down and turned into a drizzle, the 5 o'clock films team left and the contestants went back to their testing. We had bought some Plumber's Putty, it is like a sealing, waterproof silly-putty. We wanted that camera case to work and we were gonna try many different methods to get it to work. Success is a four letter word after all. We molded the putty to fit into the o-ring grooves of the camera case, attached the left over weight and left it at the bottom of the dolphin pool, hoping for a success this time.
We waited for the camera case to be in the water long enough, and since we had to be at TRANSDEC we sat in the cold, the rain still drizziling all around us. I was wearing short shorts today and one of the divers walking by heard me talking about how cold I was. When he asked me about, I told him that I was fine, but he offered to give me some of the diver pants to keep me warm which I said I did not need but thank you anyway. I thought that was all to this encounter but after I got back from getting some lunch (Thai food truck, meh food, too salty) the diver's assistant had left me a pair of pants. Apparently the girl asked if this was where the girl who was cold was. I was amazed and awed at the kindness of a stranger and yes, those pants made me super warm; thank you kind diver.
The camera case leaked yet again but it was determined that the leakage was coming from the 'waterproof' connector, not the camera case seal itself. It was good to find the source of the leak but this was something we couldn't fix easily. An old alumni of ARVP, Aassem, had come down to San Diego for the weekend to come see RoboSub. He had spent his last year of the club when Mike was in his first year, so a long time ago. He had started of as an Electrical and was taking Electrical in school but in his second year with the club, there were no MecEs so he had to take over. The team meeting to choose Sunday's time slots was at 7 PM so everyone went back to the hotel except me, Michael, and Mike with Aassem to keep us company. We had a lot of time to kill but luckily Michael had a deck of cards thanks to the wise MathLab for giving out smart free souvenirs. After rounds of speed and crazy 8s, and big 2 (I rocked at big 2, sucked at everything else) it was finally time to go get our time slots.
Taking a brief look at the rankings we noticed that since we had both the gate and the buoy we were doing better than about half the teams but there were many that had also got the manouvering task (inverted gate). Dave explained how the time slots would work tomorrow. The time slots would be divided into 3 sections; finalists, teams that got a chance for the full course, and the teams that will only get a chance on the gate and buoy. Looking at these three sections and from our previous 2 runs and static judging points, I had theorized that we would either end up in the gate-buoy section or dead last in the full course section. As the list went on for the gate-buoy section, my heart started racing as I knew that we did better than the teams being named and we had to be the full course section. We didn't have a website for the static judging so I already knew we would have to be at TRANSDEC pretty early (also the time slots only ranged from 7 AM - 11 AM). As Dave called out the team names suddenly ARVP was called and we took the 8:10 AM slot, a whole hour later than I thought we would get. I felt good about our rank so far and I wouldn't have minded that rank being the final rank.
One other thing I noticed was the fact that we beat all the high schools. I heard about a few high schools being really good and getting 5th or 6th in competition so beating those kids felt good. Now this wasn't the final rank and I might be jinxing it for tomorrow but for now, we were better than high school students. Since we had a chance at the full course, we had a long night of testing ahead of us. We had an opportunity to go beyond the buoy and we were thinking of going for the manipulation task. Mike had an approximate idea of how far the buoy was so they were planning to get AquaUrsa to turn after a certain time and hopefully head for the inverted gate and pass through it. Now a lot of the members only had 3 hours of sleep last night due to testing so the last thing they wanted was another late night so I hope we get everything done by midnight at least. There will be 7 finalists where one spot is a wildcard for the highest points team above 2500 points. If we can get the manipulation task, we might have a chance at the finals.
Aassem had invited the team to dinner at Edgewater Grill in downtown of San Diego. Throughout this week I have yet to actually see San Diego so I was being a super tourist, looking out the window of the car, trying to taking pictures even though it was too dark outside to see anything. From what I saw, I hope to come back again for a San Diego on vacation and explore this city. The food had an extensive seafood menu and I wanted to eat everything. I was contemplating between a seafood pasta or a seafood medly broth. Mikey was sitting right next to me and he was getting the seafood pasta so I ordered the seafood medly-broth since I could steal some bites from Mikey's plate. Maybe it was the night of interrupted sleep of people telling me to wake up or it being dark outside or the sitting still waiting for the food but I suddenly got a rush of sleepiness and felt like I had to pass out somewhere. Luckily the food came and hunger overcame tiredness. The broth was a bit spicy, not so much that it was hot but just enough to give it some flavour. There was only one scallop which made me wish I had just got the scallop plate but it was delicious overall. Mikey's pasta was also good, the lobster cream sauce was very unique. For dessert, Michael ordered a fugde brownie sundae. I was lucky enough to sit between Mikey and Michael so I could munch on some of their food. Eating Michael's dessert made me way too full but I don't regret anything.
Back at the hotel, we went out to the hotel pool to do some testing on the hydrophones. We were trying to see if the hydrophones could detect the pinger but it couldn't detect anything. After checking the electronic boards and the connections, we couldn't figure out exactly why the hydrophones weren't working so we moved onto testing AquaUrsa.
We had the gate and buoy points already but there was another that we wanted to attempt, the manouvering task. It involves a U-shaped gate separated into 2 sections so for full points a robot has to go through one section and come back through the other section. Since it was 1 in the morning and we would like at least some sleep before we have to go to TRANSDEC tomorrow morning, we had decided to just make AquaUrsa go through one section of the U-shaped gate. To do this we needed to get AquaUrsa to turn after it hits the buoy. Mike had an approximate idea of how long it'll take AquaUrsa to hit the buoy therefore Veselin had programmed the robot to turn after that time. After a few tries in the hotel pool, AquaUrsa was turning beautifully but we hope the angle is correct, which we won't know until tomorrow.
One new thing I learned is that sleep deprivation does make you super tired/about to pass out but once you get over that, adrenaline kicks in and you're super awake. So awake that when its time for bed, you're not even feeling sleepy until you're head hits the pillow, then completely out. One thing I would've never know if not for ARVP. Tomorrow is the finals and our final chance to get a better score where we might make the finals. It'll all come down to the 15 minutes we have in the water. I wish I said I was too excited to sleep but going to bed was pretty exciting too. Best of luck to AquaUrsa and all the other teams out there!
ARVP Mechanical Team Co-Lead
University of Alberta