July 27, 2013 - Day 6 – Bowling for Buoys

Posted by admin-robotlord on July 28, 2013

With no chance of testing last night it was hard to say what we would accomplish today. There was no more electronic work to be done; although, we did still plan to acquire some sonar data. Doing our runs with the currently configured SubmURSA meant that the MechE’s no longer had any serious work to do on Aqua URSA, it simply needed to be presentable for our static judging. At 12:30 we passed through the gate to secure our wildcard semi-final run at 6:30. It was then that we realized we had been working so hard on the submarines that we had neglected fully preparing our presentation for the static judging session. All work on the subs halted as each team began feverishly working on their technical presentations; our judging session was slotted for 1:45.

We managed to pull together a passable power point presentation for the judges and prepare some words from each of our members on our design choices. Mike expertly introduced the project and smoothly walked the judges through the basics before handing it over to Lee for a discussion in the electronics. Lee described the innovations we had introduced over last year’s model and highlighted the difficulties we had encountered in our electronics. He then surprised Rumman by asking him to say a few words about our sonar system attempts. Rumman of course was significantly involved with the development of the sonar system, so he was well equipped to handle the sudden request. Lee then turned things over to Veselin who went into great detail on all of our software systems. As the sole member of our software team, he has been a cornerstone in our success at the competition.

It was then the MechE’s turn to describe the work that went into Aqua URSA’s design. Scott of course started the presentation. Usually a master of public speaking and exuding confidence, Scott seemed to have trouble forming words of any kind. His intimate knowledge of the mechanical design seemed to escape him as he fumbled to recall the dimensions of the pressure vessel. Resorting to reading directly off the slides he managed to recover enough to pass things off to the Ninjas. Each of them showcased portions of the mechanical design they had been involved with, highlighting our clever electronics tray which drew a slight gasp of interest from the judges.

Once the mechanical presentation was over we opened up the floor for questions. Of course, one of the first questions was to Scott, inquiring just why exactly he chose 422 mm for the length of the pressure vessel. Scott, still a little shaken up from his performance, really had no good answer for this and instead detailed how it added up to that length. Thankfully more questions diverted attention away from Scott’s mechanical expertise. Instead someone asked about the crossover of old and new technology in our old platform. Among the few new innovations in SubmURSA, Mike mentioned our new motor controller design, which we knew full well was sitting inoperable inside of Aqua URSA, but Mike insisted was most definitely a part of our success in this year’s competition. The motor controllers are definitely better; it’s not for a lack of trying that they didn’t make it into an operations state. Mike must be learning his subversion from the Ninja’s in his spare time.

Finally the static judging session was over and we could all breathe a little easier. Scott expressed his disdain at his performance; we consoled him, simply glad that it was all done with. With that out of the way we had plenty of time before our semi-final run. We decided to pass the time by conversing with other teams. We exchanged design ideas and stories of our hardships as a small university team trying to gain more recognition (and funding). Seems many of the other teams are very similar to us, and we all humorously converse about the few teams who seem to have bottomless budgets to dominate the competition. Our relations have left us with many new design ideas to consider and we have made a few new friends. We all hope with this exchange of knowledge that we might be able to unseat the reigning champions.

Talking to the other teams killed a significant amount of time and it was growing close to our semi-final run. The team converged at our tent and quickly prepared SubmURSA for what may be our final run for the competition. We loaded it up and proceeded to the craning area to see what we could accomplish this time.

Lee informs me that accomplishing tasks without any sonar or vision capabilities is called bowling. An appropriate name since the only thing then guiding the submarine will be the compass and thruster algorithms to maintain a heading. That heading will be whatever is set before untethering from the submarine. So, effectively Mike plans on lining up the submarine with the gate and pointing it at a buoy. Remember that the buoys are deep under water, so aiming is a little tricky. Lee, Rumman, and the MechE’s congregate on the other side of the pool, approximately forming a line between them, the buoys and our launching dock. This will hopefully assist Mike in his bowling attempt. Veselin, Mike, and I are at the dock preparing for the launch.

There are two types of buoys: a solid colour buoy and the “traffic lights.” These are buoys that change colour from green to yellow to red. We are only allowed to dock with (collide with) the traffic lights when they are green. The traffic light buoys obviously yield more points. Since we are flying blind, we just hope to hit any of them. Mike aims the SubmURSA and Veselin begins the program. SubmURSA is untethered and begins its run. We all hold our breath as we watch SU make its slow journey towards the gate. It passes the gate and seems to be in a collision course for the buoys. We watch as it positions itself between two of the traffic lights. The closest buoy has been green for some time and we see a small tremor in the buoy as SU makes contact just before the light changes to red. SU continues moving forward as we converse with the judges. They inform Mike that we got the Gate, Path, and Buoy. Containing his excitement (or disbelief) Mike motions for the kill signal and announces we’ll take that as our run (of course we will). The radio clipped to my chest crackles to life as Scotts voice rings in clearly, asking how we did. I respond with the judges verdict and across the pool I watch as the rest of our team explodes in excitement. Everyone feels pretty good today.

So what this means is, not only did we pass the gate and manage to touch a buoy, but Mike also managed to aim the sub to follow the ground path, and we hit a traffic light buoy. This is far more than we could have hoped for and moves us up significantly in the rankings. Congratulations to Mike on bowling a perfect score for ARVP. Who needs sonar and vision right? Shortly after our run they announce the finalist runs for tomorrow. We don’t make the cut, but we still have plenty to be proud of. Besides, not having a run tomorrow means we can finally rest easy tonight. At least there will be no testing.

Back at the hotel we celebrate our achievements with a bottle of champagne, making several toasts to our efforts and achievements; mostly we are surprised that we haven’t tried to kill each other yet. The MechE’s then make the best use of Aqua URSA we’ve had all competition, filling it with ice and beverages and proceeding to the hot tub. There we join the Swedish team in celebration. We all socialize late into the night, spending way more time in the hot tub than can possibly be healthy. This time is well deserved though, as we’ve put in many long hours of work and it’s about time we put in long hours of relaxing. Soon we all begin retiring to bed, tomorrow is the last day of competition and it will be exciting to see the final runs and to converse with more teams. We still hope to record some sonar data if we are able to get the electronics working; this will be incredibly valuable for testing our systems in the coming year.

Our trip in San Diego is quickly coming to an end; only tomorrow will reveal our final accomplishments.

Wally Fischer
ARVP Electrical Team
University of Alberta


One comment on “July 27, 2013 - Day 6 – Bowling for Buoys”

  1. Congratulations to the team on exceeding your expectations for achievement in the competition! We have enjoyed reading the blog to catch up on the goings on and I must say, it was informative and well written. Enjoy your final day at the competition! Well done!

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