It was an interesting day today. Our flight was delayed by a short but fierce storm in Edmonton, but soon we were underway. 4 of our 10 members, myself included, left on the early flight at 6:15. After a quick layover in Pheonix we soon arrived in sunny San Diego. As it is my first time both flying and being outside the country, I went full tourist mode. It appears appropriate that I’m the one to be blogging our adventures.
While waiting for the rest of the team to land, the four of us decided to get some food at the San Diego Bar and Grill, where I had my first encounter with American food. Which.. was pretty much the same as Canadian food. We soon discovered that our colleagues’ flight was delayed by two hours. So we decided to call the hotel shuttle and head over to the Kona Kai Resort.
Our driver slowly made his way to the hotel, allowing us to take in the lush coastal scenery around us: the variety of trees, the ocean and all the numerous boats, the strange traffic signs and other tell tale signs that we were no longer in Canada.
To our dismay we couldn’t exactly check in to the hotel yet since it was our team leader Mike Bujold that held the reservations. So we sat in the lobby for a while… Walked around the grounds for a while… Sat some more… and then napped as best we could in the lobby armchairs as more of the teams arrived at the hotel.
Soon it was time for the orientation. Competitors from across the globe started pouring in. A team passed by us with the flag of China neatly sown to the shoulders of their uniforms. Then the Russians, the Swedish, and many teams from across the USA, ranging all the way from middle schools to university grad students.
We attempted to get our name tags, but of course they only had last year’s list of members, only 4 of which were actually in attendance, and only one, our Computer team lead Veselin Ganev, was with us at the time; the rest of our team had yet to show up, along with our team shirts. So we were looking like a pretty rough crew at the time. The hosts greeted us warmly and welcomed us to the 16th AUVSI RoboSub competition. Somewhere in the middle of it all the rest of our team arrived and I quickly dawned my ARVP work shirt. A dark blue with my name embroidered into the chest, only slightly large for a medium, it’ll probably need some tailoring to look less like a tent, but at least now we had some sense of unity in identity.
Our next stop was to go for lunch and stop for supplies. At the nearby Rubios Mexican restaurant Lee Wisely and I both had a moment of joy when we found they served Vanilla Coke, a long lost pleasure from the realm of Canadian soil. This fact even seemed to overshadow the availability of beer in this fast food establishment.
Off again to Target we picked up what should be our food for the week… or maybe a few days… maybe. After an hour or so of confused shopping our last stop took us to a heaven known as BevMo, a place full of adult beverages at prices that any Canadian could only consider to be criminally low. A few shameless purchases later and we finally found ourselves back at the hotel. Now it’s all business.
The group quickly gathers to discuss our next moves for the evening and early morning. You see, we don’t actually have a physically working robot at this point. The boards we all slaved over to get designed at still in transit, and the submarine platform itself lay in pieces on the bed in the MechE team room. The crate containing our last year’s platform as well as most of our tools has yet to arrive. We have limited tools, so we must determine what we can accomplish, as time is short in these 8 days, and the road to the finish seems endless at this point.
I sit here now recording the events of our trip. The MechE team, their leader Scott Hughes at the helm, is working to assemble what they can of the new platform. I lean in with my camera and watch as they try to fasten screws, using rulers as screw drivers, since of course all our tools are in our MIA crate. Lee Wisely and Rumman Waqar are out of the patio with their laptops, tirelessly hashing out a plan for the filter circuit that will identify the sonar signal from our hydrophones. This may be the sole thing we are able to test until the rest of our gear arrives.
And then Scott drops the worst question possible. “Lee, did you pack the cameras?” To which Lee’s blank expression answers darkly. So as it turns out, nobody packed the cameras for the submarine, as well as the compass. So we’re both blind AND lost. Thankfully one of our members, Zeal, was delayed in Edmonton due to waiting for his passport. The team frantically sends out the message to him to pack our missing components. Disaster averted… hopefully.
Veselin is working in solitude in our upper floor room, testing older circuit components to prepare as a backup plan, and Mike hovers between all of us monitoring the progress.
The joined rooms with the electrical and mechanical teams buzz with excitement as the new platform has reached its first stage of completion. We all stand around it with a sense of accomplishment, taking a moment from our frantic work to bask in this symbol that perhaps there is hope for the project yet.
See you tomorrow for our first day of competition!
ARVP Electrical Team
University of Alberta