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RoboSub 2014 - July 31, 2014 - Day 4: Unpredictable Life

Posted by admin-robotlord on August 4, 2014

Another day at TRANSDEC, another day with Aqua Ursa, but life is unpredictable. I woke up confident in our robot but as the day goes on I will be proven wrong.

To start things light, there was a new food truck today; Mexican. It was absolutely delicious. I got the 3 taco combo, one garlic octopus, one catfish, and one baja shrimp. While they were all delicious, the garlic octopus taco was so creamy and flavourful, it could have been on top of pasta and called it garlic octopus sauce. I wanted to get more but I was too full. I would later regret this decision, because that food truck was only at TRANSDEC for this one day. One day I will find that Mexican food truck, one day.

After that delicious meal, we were ready to go for another practice run with Aqua Ursa. Feeling confident since we had already qualified, the rest of these practice runs were icing on the cake. Mike attached the kill switch to Aqua Ursa to start the program, and its thrusters fired immediately so that it could dive. Usually the robot stabilizes itself at a certain depth but this time it kept going down and even when the thrusters were turned off, AquaUrsa did not come up to the surface, the diver had to pull it up. We tried this multiple times, each time with the same result, somehow Aqua Ursa was too heavy. It made no sense since the exact same weights were used (36 lbs) at the exact same positions. Mike called over to us MecEs, asking what we had changed regarding the weights. We all shrugged and replied 'nothing'. Aqua Ursa was diving perfectly yesterday, but today something happened that made it too heavy. With the robot still in the water, Mike reached in and took out one of the 6 lb weight from the dive belt which lightened the robot enough for it to rise after diving. The rest of the testing continued, but with only 4 pockets and 5 6 lb weights, one side was heavier and the other and it was tilting.

After, Mike had quickly gone and booked another practice time slot at 3:30 PM so we had a 3 hours to figure this out. Obviously 36 lbs of extra weight was too much but we needed to even out the 30 lbs with 6 lb weights. Luckily, while rummaging through the spare parts box, we found some small weights. They didn't have any labels as to what the weight was, so we had to use our hands as a "scale", comparing small weighs to the already known 6 lb weight. We took all the small weights and shoved them into the pockets, I thought they wouldn't all fit but, extreme force changes things. Before our practice run we tested Aqua Ursa in the dolphin pool and yes, not only was it balanced but it was sinking with the thrusters and coming back up without them; success.

Just like the dolphin pool, the 3:30 practice run when great where Alvin also had a chance to "bowl" for the buoys. This time we had bolted a camera with a water proof case onto the robot, turned it on to video and recorded the entire practice, just to get a sense of visualization underwater. Veselin and Mike were hoping the video would be useful for testing the software out of the water. The video itself was very low quality and it was hard to see anything. None of the "bowling" attempts actually hit a buoy but it got close many, many times. We just needed a few more practice runs to get this perfect.

The day went on like always at TRANSDEC, people came to ask questions about the robot and we kindly answered their questions. The Electrical and Software teams worked on the electronics while MecEs tried to fix the camera case, which after a dunk test, leaked yet again. All this work was something that we could finish back at the hotel but there was a meeting at 6 PM which decided the times for the semi-finals. Mike, Alvin, and I stayed behind hoping to have qualified early enough to get one of the first decisions. Unfortunately, qualifying on Wednesday was too late and we were one of the last teams to choose a time. We ended up with a time slot of 9 AM, a bit too early so we couldn't practice before, but it could be worse, at least we weren't at 7:30 AM. Even without a practice run before, Aqua Ursa worked fine and all we needed to worry about was Mike's aim, which was getting better every try.

For the semi-finals, we had as many tries we want during our time slot of 30 minutes. For that time slot, the last try will be the one that we will be for points. We get one slot on Friday and one slot on Saturday and the judges will take the best out of the two to use as our final score. Therefore, as soon as we hit a buoy, we're done for that day. Then we can try something new the next day.

Usually car rides back aren't very interesting, but this particular car ride proved that the universe hated us and wanted to ruin our relaxed, confident-about-Aqua Ursa time. During one of the turns, the 36 kg (or 75 lb) robot with angled leg supports slid in the back and its side slammed into the side of the car. At first glance it looked like one of the thruster shrouds was kind of crooked and I hoped inside that it was still okay, but when I moved the robot away from the side, the shroud broke off. There was a moment of panic, but Mike asserted that we had a spare thruster back in the hotel; we could fix it. Mike, Michael and Mikey set out taking apart both the broken and new thurster and changing the broken part for the new one. When they were done, our thruster looked like nothing had ever happened to it. We got off easy this time but if this happened again, we had no more spares - eek.

After that melo-drama we were back to work, and working is hard on an empty stomach. We ordered some pizza from Oggie's, mainly because I noticed this one pizza on their menu. It had chicken, bacon, lettuce, avocado, tomato, and ranch sauce on top. Now that was a peculiar sounding pizza and I wanted to try it. I should have gone with a different pizza place with normal pizzas. While we waited for the pizza to come, we worked on the static presentation. I had compiled all the slides but I wouldn't be the one who would be talking so there was some reviewing and editing that needed to be done. After an hour of waiting and still no pizza I called the place to make sure they didn't forget about us. They didn't and told me the delivery guy would be here in 10 minutes. After another 30 minutes of waiting we finally got our pizza, this was a 9 PM. I was more tired by that point than hungry. The pizza that we got had such think dough that I felt like eating a loaf of bread more than a pizza. The unique pizza with avocado was okay, it wasn't amazing or anything and to be honest, I wish I had just ordered from Pizza Nova again and got their garlic chicken pizza, yum.

We were tired, we were hungry and we had work to do so we still ate it. Cornell had LED lights on their robot last year where the lights acted as a visual status indicator. We had planned to put some on our robot as well since it was a useful idea. Tonight was the night we finally turned them on. We tested around midnight in the hotel pool which was illuminated by green lights and the blue LED lights from the robot made it look super cool. Now I know to put LED lights on everything and use it during the night.

Today was a day of ups and downs but we managed to solve almost all the problems. The camera case is still leaky, even after buying new o-rings since the gasket idea didn't work very well. Semi-finals is tomorrow and I gotta say, we might do pretty well. It might be my newbie hopefulness but maybe we'll do better than last year.

Jamie Lee
ARVP Mechanical Team Co-Lead
University of Alberta

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