July 24, 2013 – Day 3 – Progress, progress… Progress?

Posted by admin-robotlord on July 25, 2013

I woke up this morning to the sound of an already busy room of people. The late night had left me a bit groggy, but I could hear the voices clearly through the fog. It seems our missing team member was going to stay MIA, as a mix up led him to missing his flight; ARVP would remain at nine for the days ahead. I also learned that the MechE team would be heading down to the Transdec to continue work on the sub; meanwhile, we (the EE team) would stay behind and work in the comfortable chaos that is our hotel room. Soldering stations, components, and equipment strategically strewn about the room, covering most every surface, this is the place we have come to know as home. Our goal for today, get the remaining boards completed to that we can begin testing… at some point. Also, our team photo shoot is scheduled for today, so we must head down there to make an appearance.

As usual, Mike and Scott head out to gather the daily list of things the nights work has brought to our attention that we desperately need if there is any hope of us hitting the water. Among the items on this list is the drill bit that will allow me to complete the power board. –What did I do in the morning????

The time for us to leave for Transdec is on the Horizon, but until getting there to acquire access to the drill, there is nothing for me to accomplish at the moment. So I decide to take this window of limbo to hit the gym quickly. After the quick workout, and Scott informing me of our imminent departure, I take some time to enjoy the steam room in the spa. In misty isolation I reflect on what has brought us to where we are now and the road that lies ahead. We have many formidable tasks ahead of us if we are to have a chance to truly compete in this competition, but this team is nothing if not determined to make that happen. The many other teams might have flashy robots, and hours of testing under their belt, but we will remain undaunted. Our drive and commitment to the project (late as it may be) sets us apart from the other teams. This is self-evident in the evening, when the sound of drills and excited voices dies down, everyone else has turned in for the night, and still we work tirelessly to defeat time in this critical race to qualify. The day ahead will be enlightening; I finish my introspection, quickly shower, and hurry back to the hotel room where the team awaits to depart.

We unload at Transdec, and march straight to our tent for there is significant work to be done. The platform is of course incomplete; thankfully however, we do not need it for our photo shoot. In the mean time I get the drill and begin finish the holes for the power board. After a few careful minutes, the connector fits very snuggly. I then turn my attention to the arduous task of scraping away the solder mask on the power rails, so that we can generate some output pins that didn’t make it into the design that was sent to manufacture. Meanwhile the MechE team is busy with the platform, and the rest of the EE’s cruise around the other tents, checking out the stiff competition we face.

It’s soon time for our photo shoot and we trek up the hill to where a white Ford Mustang is wait to be posed in front of. Scott lightly expresses his feelings towards this, but it happens anyway. Whether it’s the late nights, the crushing deadlines, or the only attractive girl we’ve interacted with in almost a week taking photos of us, ARVP seems to have been sapped of all its humor, creativity, and good judgment. When called on for a greeting shot we choose to throw up the metal horns and stare down the camera stone faced like a gang of Hells Angels at a bible burning. And of course to completely contrast this image, our fun action shot consists of what can only be described as the most uncoordinated Harlem Shake parody ever attempted. Any passersby may be tempted to call an ambulance for the first recorded case of mass simultaneous seizures. Now to really cap things off, they put me in the driver seat for a green screen shot. A fan is blowing in my hair to simulate the open road, even though the natural wind is having none of that, throwing my hair back in my face in protest. I shudder as I recall that at some point, all of these images will eventually be displayed on the jumbo-tron at the Transdec. God help us all in ARVP.

Once the shoot is over we quickly return to finish our tasks before the EE team is packed back up into the truck to depart. On our way home we stop at McDonalds to fuel up with some artificial stomach filler. Myself baffled at the insanely low prices listed in this American McDonalds, I decide to go all out and order as much food as I can possibly foresee eating for the rest of the night. This includes 5 burgers, and 2 wraps, for the low price of $12! A fact to which I continue to rant about long after the food itself has already been devoured.

Back at the hotel room we resume our regularly scheduled program of soldering. Lee continues to slave away on the hydrophone filter board, while Rumman joins Veselin to do some testing on the display board. I am eager to finish the power board finally. Once that is finished, Rumman and I decide to each tackle one of the motor controller boards, this will be no small feat as they contain many components, and a few very tiny ones.

While soldering some of the finer IC’s, Rumman tries to backpedal on a few spots and ends up in a cataclysmic position, having taken off several of the pads connecting the IC to the board. We then turn this issue over to the masters, Lee and Mike, for evaluation. The verdict is that it should be salvageable but will take some work. In the meantime, we will solder the rest of the components onto the boards. I wave the white flag on the smaller components, and Mike quickly assists me in mounting them.

Our dream is to attempt to begin testing in the hotel pool tonight, although the probability of this diminishes every hour. Mike is working with the MechE team to assemble our old platform, SubmURSA. At least with this we might be able to achieve some semblance of testing before the night is over. Having finished a long session of soldering, hunching over a high table in a low chair, I decide to hit the pool before testing begins. A short dip in the hot tub should be rejuvenating for the night ahead.

I join the Russian team in the hot tub and listen in as they converse with some other teams about their plans and issues. They talk of buoyancy problems and many others that we have not even had the privilege of addressing yet. But I am not discouraged, for the hour of our submergence is rapidly approaching. It will truly be a moment to celebrate, but I know it will be a brief reprieve as this will only mark the beginning of our long journey to the gate. After a time of trading stories with the other teams and some friendly well-wishing, I decide it is time to return and continue working.

Upon returning, Rumman and I quickly finish assembling the motor controller boards. One more step towards victory has been taken. Mike continues to prepare SubmURSA, while Scott and the MechE’s do the same with AquaURSA. The work continues late into the night and it soon become apparent we will not be testing tonight. Some of the MechE’s have already gone to sleep, needing to be up early for the Transdec. Mike sits in the middle of all the chaos working on the Main board. Around us there are no clean surfaces left. Only the seats we sit in offer refuge from the electronics strewn about. Scott urges the EE team to cease their efforts in order to be well rested for tomorrow’s events. We begrudgingly oblige and begin cleaning up the debris.

Tomorrow will be the most important day thus far. Will we qualify? Will we even make it into the water? All these questions will be answered in the hours to come.


Wally Fischer
ARVP Electrical Team
University of Alberta


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