July 23, 2013 - Day 2 - Frantic Antics

Posted by admin-robotlord on July 24, 2013

Lee Wisely and I woke up early this morning, before any of the rest of our team were nearly conscious, and spent some time at the gym in our hotel. We got a decent work out in for an hour or so.  Lee soon hurried off to get straight to work, what little we could do at the moment. I was fairly sore from the workout and longed to hit the beckoning steam room, but decided to follow suit and get the days event started.

Back at our room, bodies were slowly reanimating as the ARVP team came to life for the second day of our competition, and our first day at the Transdec Pool. So far, our crate containing all our tools, as well as the shipment of PCB boards is still MIA. It should make for an interesting day at Transec. One pleasant discovery reveals itself this morning: I mention to Mike that we are still missing our cameras and compass, and he corrects me explaining that he has them in his room. Great news for the rest of us, wish we had known last night. I inform Scott, and his response to Mike can only be described as excessively gratuitous.

Mike and Scott leave with our truck in search of some crucial supplies for the day, leaving the rest of us to pack up in order to take the shuttle to Transdec. However, upon reading to leave we discover that the  shuttle has already left us, so stranded we saunter back to our headquarters to wait for our fearless leaders to return.

Once they arrive, we quickly pack up all our things and jam most of our team into the truck. The MechE team stays behind to work on the platform. Finally we are on our way. The road to Transdec is very round about. First we must travel off the small island our hotel is located on, and then U-turn back the way we came to travel down the peninsula where Trandec is located. In the midst of our travels I am heartbroken to be informed that our backplane boards were not fabricated due to yet more design issues The very boards I slaved over to design, and the centrepiece of our electrical systems. Due to the prohibitably small clearences required, they were unable to be fabricated. So we’ll make do without them. I am determined to redesign them for next year; my work shall not have been in vain.

Through the trees we catch glimpses of the facility. Around a bend we see the sign for the RoboSub competition and then the pool appears in full view. The pool is buzzing with activity as Mike drops us and our equipment off. A navy diver treads in the water as a crane lowers another team’s sub into the pool. We walk down passed the many teams already set up and hard at work on their projects. We arrive at our station and begin to set up what we can, after all we still don’t have our platform with us, nor any of the PCB board to assemble any of the electronics. Not looking good for ARVP today.

The electrical team (Lee, Rumman, and I) set up at one of our tables, while Veselin and a few of the MechEs set up behind us. At the moment all our tent consists of is tables full of laptops. Our first task: internet, one that would prove to be arduous. With only one hard wired cable, and our router MIA with our crate, I attempt to use the cable and set up a wireless network for the team. No such luck, neither with Lee nor with Rumman. We then turn to Alvin, who successfully sets up a network. But my laptop dislikes the security settings, so after painfully troubleshooting the problem, we decide to simply go unsecured for the time being. Problem solved.

The team then does their best to work. Lee and Rumman begin running simulations to find a configuration for the hydrophone signal filters. As usual Veselin does his own quite thing in his own quiet corner, but we all know, without the software there can be no autonomous sub, so we leave him to it. In the meantime, I get to work setting up our crazy network of social media coverage for the event and compiling the videos to start editing.

Hours go by and still no word from the rest of the team. Many people have walked by or inquired as to why we are without our submarine. “Delays,” is our single response. The sky is overcast and bitter winds gust in from the nearby ocean. Lee and Rumman have finished their analysis and have designed a perforated board that will later be soldered together. Just as we run out of things to do, on the horizon appears the rest of ARVP carrying our long awaited platform and toting toolboxes and bins full of productive goodies. All of the sudden the ARVP tent comes alive as electronics equipment is set up, and tools are strewn about.

The MechE’s spend their time tearing down the submarine in order to properly reassemble it. They begin drilling and sawing and measuring. Amidst all the chaos I take refuge under a table cloth with my laptop in order to shut out the glare of the clouds so as to attempt some video editing for our first webisode.

Soon it is time to leave; Lee and I pack a few things and escape on a shuttle ahead of the rest. Upon returning to the hotel I promptly pass out from the day’s events and nights lack of sleep. Lee takes the opportunity to shower. Once the others return things ramp up again and before long everyone is in full work mode. Lee draws our attention to a most heavenly sight: our PCB boards, in the flesh.. err.. silicon. On that note we clear space on our one small hotel room table and set up three soldering stations. Soon every surface of the hotel is covered with electronics components of equipment of some kind, while next door the MechE’s continue to work away making our platform water worthy.

Rumman works diligently on the submarines display and diagnostics board, while I get started on the power board. Lee is lucky enough to hold the responsibility of soldering the hydrophones perf board that was designed earlier in the day. Way to take one for the team Lee. But all is not well in the land of EE’s, as I soon find out that some holes have been drilled too small for a primary component of the power board. I quickly enlist the help of the MechE’s to rectify this problem, our solution being a power drill and steady hands. However, we are interrupted by the breathtaking smell of pizza, time for a well-deserved break.

We all gather around and engulf the pizza like a pack of starving wolves, while congregating around the TV for some desperately needed mind numbing. The break is over all too soon and it’s back to work. I acquire the power drill and attempt to remove my roadblock to progress. The first ones work perfectly, we discover, however, that the larger holes will require a drill bit we do not have. More shopping tomorrow it seems. But that’ll get me on my way for now.

Lee, Rumman, and I continue to hunch over our little table, irons sizzling, and the sweet smell of soldering in the air. Meanwhile, next door the MechE’s have run into problems of their own. The pressure vessel’s end caps do not seem to want to be sealed. That is, the o-ring is simply too large. For a short while the ARVP team is turned into a gymnastics team as we attempt to stack people on top of the cylinder in wild attempts to fit the o-ring and end cap into the cylindrical pressure vessel. But our effort appears to be futile and after a time we abandon the outrageous antics; yet another task for tomorrow.

The MechE’s soon turn in for the night, leaving the EE’s to pour over our solder stations. Veselin, of course, is lounging on a bed, working his programming magic. We work late into the night; this is underscored by the increasing amount of mistakes being made. Rumman claims he can no longer see straight after soldering the many tiny resistors, I have now soldered two sets of my components in backwards and painfully reversed the act, and Lee is more manic by the second.

Alas, the display board is complete, and the power board is also nearly so. We bask in these achievements before deciding to retire for a few hours. Morning is approaching all too soon, and with it brings a new set of challenges. While my teammates sleep I update this post, chuckling to myself at the day’s events, cringing at others. And now that it is finally done, I too can rest briefly before being plunged in to another frantic day.

Maybe tomorrow all our effort will begin to pay off.

Wally Fischer
ARVP Electrical Team
University of Alberta


2 comments on “July 23, 2013 - Day 2 - Frantic Antics”

  1. I am very proud of you Wally. This is a test in real life engineering. Raw cunning and ingenuity at work.

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