I awoke in the middle of my peaceful sleep to find Mike trying to turn off my loud phone alarm set for 6:30 AM. My first thought was simply 'Why did I set an alarm so early in the morning?' I soon realized that today was the first day at TRANSDEC, the pool at the US Navy base where RoboSub will be held. Unfortunately, the excitement of seeing the competition grounds was replaced by the tiredness from the assembly of Aqua Ursa the night before and in a second I was back to my peaceful sleep.Luckily the other members have been to a competition before and were used to waking up at dawn even with lack of sleep. When I joined them a couple of hours later at TRANSDEC, I finally realized the magnitude of this competition. The crowds of students hard at work on their robots, the divers swimming, and of course, the enormous pool of water all set up for the RoboSub course. Even though I was tempted to look around, there was work to be done. Aqua Ursa had not touched water in a while and its functionality after its long trip from our lab in Edmonton, to the hotel in San Diego, was undetermined at the moment. While the Electrical and Software teams were working on final adjustments to the system back at the hotel, the MecE's held the fort down at TRANSDEC while making changes to the robot that had not been completed the night before.
Time flows fast when you're busy, which is exactly what happened today. Before we knew it, the rest of the team had joined us at TRANSDEC to put the electrical boards in and test the robot. We were expecting to test the thrusters but when Aqua Ursa hit the water, it was found to be too buoyant 🙁 Even with the vertical thrusters on 100% power, it was not enough to keep Aqua Ursa underwater. Our practise time was limited and there was not enough time to make any changes and continue our practice run, so we headed back to the hotel, feeling not defeated but determined with solutions in mind.
Nothing gets done on an empty stomach and with a basic plan laid out, a nice club dinner at Jimmy's Famous American Tavern was just what we needed. While seafood is a definite must in San Diego, burgers are always a number one choice any day. I was particularly jealous of Alvin's order of seafood medley but my appetizer of Ahi Tartare made up for the lack of seafood, yum.
Theoretically, 24 lbs of added weight in the weight belt should have been enough to sink the robot when the thrusters were on 80%. After adding on an extra 12 lbs, a total of 36 lbs of added weight, and testing Aqua Ursa at 1 AM in the hotel pool, the robot was able to dive underwater. Our victory was short-lived, due to a sensor malfunction, causing poor functionality of the depth controller. After getting the robot out, there was not much for the MecE team to work on since sensors and controllers were not within our area of knowledge, so we headed to bed at 2 AM, hoping Mike, Veselin and Rumman were not far too behind. Alvin also stayed up to help, in case any Mechanical assistance was needed.
It was a long day of new experiences, hard work, disappointing moments, and brilliant solutions. Life isn't perfect and there are some bugs to fix on Aqua Ursa but its time to call it a day and get some sleep for another action-packed day. We are hoping to qualify soon and if things go well tonight with the rest of the team, who knows, maybe we'll qualify tomorrow.
ARVP Mechanical Team Co-Lead
University of Alberta