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Year-End Newsletter | December 2020/January 2021 Newsletter

Posted by Nigel Woodhouse on January 24, 2021
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A Year in Review

We can all admit at this point that 2020 was not what we expected; it has been rough for many people in many ways. At least with the Pfizer vaccine and the recently approved Moderna vaccine, there is some optimism on the horizon. It could still be another year before normalcy returns, but we must remain determined and diligent in the face of adversity until then. 

The pandemic and restrictions have disrupted the regular functions at ARVP. Over the past nine months, the team has come together and persevered to accomplish so much. The following newsletter is to highlight some of the important milestones we reached this year! We look forward to making the most of 2021; hopefully, it will be a little nicer.


Accomplishments and Challenges

RoboSub 2020 Competition

  • Placed 6th of 33 teams at the RoboSub 2020 competition! Our standing earned the team a $1,000 reward. We remain the top Canadian team and a force to be reckoned with. This year, the event was hosted remotely, and our competency is based upon 3 criteria: website, journal paper, team video.
  • 8th place for the website, 7th place for technical design report, and 10th place for the team video.

Team Milestones

  • Finalized the Mechanical and Electrical designs of our newest Autonomous Underwater Robot, Arctos. Welcome to the team! We have begun acquiring parts and manufacturing (slowly and safely due to the pandemic). 
  • We had to say a sombre farewell to many members as they move onto bigger and better things. This includes Curtis Stewart, Adesh Sangione, Andrew Schroeder, Bryn Leonard-Fortune, Gabriel Risbud-Vincent, James Hryniw, Kirill Makhachev, Mohammed Kebbi, Ryan Van Drec, Suzana Trac, and Willard Farmer.
  • Showed off our team and our accomplishments at the University of Alberta Engineering Faculty Open House and Science Olympics.
  • We welcome many new members with open arms. These individuals have shown vigilance and dedication during these past four months. 
  • Completely redesigned our ARVP website; it was in much need of an update. This is accomplished through the use of the Oxygen page builder.
  • Raised $6,400 through the team's Crowdfunding Campaign in March to compensate Arctos' price tag. 
  • Successfully acquired financial support from Engineering Students Society through the ESGF Grant.
  • Successfully acquired financial support through the SELF grant.
  • Updated team financials to reflect the goals of this year.
  • Improvements in team management and documentation through online mediums, including Slack, Google Meets, Google Drive, Google Data Studio, Trello, BookStack, Travis CI, and GitHub.
  • Creation of new safety guidelines and protocols for future campus work (when it is safe to do so, of course).

Mechanical Milestones

  • Completion of the Mechanical Design of Arctos. The team relied heavily upon the expertise documented from previous years. Construction has begun.
  • This year marks the first time one of our robots is fitted with a claw to manipulate its environment. 
  • Redesign of the torpedo launcher and dropped subsystems.
  • Worked with a 4th-year mechanical capstone team to design an internal cooling system, another ARVP first. 

Electrical Milestones

  • Completion of the Electrical Design of Arctos. Construction has begun.
  • Manufacturing and testing of PCB, including battery monitoring board, internal environment monitor to detect temperature and leaks.
  • 4 Passive hydrophones for underwater location detection.

Software Milestones

  • The software team is hard at work, updating our simulation software, called Gazebo. It is a massive improvement over the old software and very beneficial during these times. This includes updating the physics engine and modifying the linear-quadratic regulator (LQR).
  • Features to operate the droppers, torpedos, and claw are included in the simulator.
  • Improvements in 3D camera tracking and visualization. 
  • Improvements in mission planning algorithms for use in the simulator and at the competition. 

Admin Milestones

  • Reintroduction of the monthly newsletter and team-member highlights. 
  • New team recruitment video for the 2020/2021 academic year.
  • First online Annual General Meeting (AGM) and the first live-streamed event.
  • Working hard to achieve financial support for the upcoming fiscal year. 
  • Continue to work/engage with sponsors and supporters.
  • Introduction of weekly games/activity nights to promote team cohesion and communication, as in-person meetings no longer exist.

In Order:
The Beginning of Anything Team Photo
2019/2020 Mechanical Team
2019/2020 Software Team
2019/2020 Admin Team
The 2020/2021 Executive Team Collage, as we cannot take a group photo.

In Order:
Welcome to the team, Arctos!
Arctos, all fancy and rendered
Auri is eager to get in the water at our February pool test
Prepare the course at our February pool test
Sometimes engineering is more waiting than working

In Order: 
Arctos in the simulator, Gazebo
The hull of Arctos is looking snazzy!
The cooling system designed by the 4th-year mechanical capstone team
Battery monitoring board schematic
Sonar detection
3D printed miniature

In Order: 
Jenny presenting Auri at the Science Olympics
Mohammad Kebbi briefing the team on the upcoming crowdfunding campaign in March
Ex-Team Lead Curtis Stewart providing presenting in the team's crowdfunding campaign video
Nicholas Wengel presenting at the AGM Livestream
Sometimes, it is nice to just have fun


ARVP Member Showcase

Here, we highlight the wonderful individuals and the many skills and talents that our team possesses. 


Jenny Lee

Jenny Lee is the Project Co-Lead for the 2020/2021 year.

What year and discipline are you in?
4th-year petroleum engineering.

Why did you go into engineering?
I've always had a passion for robotics and wanted to learn more about it. I'm a very hands-on person, and engineering gives me that opportunity to be hands-on and explore my passions.

What do you want to do as a career?
I want to continue building robots specifically in the biomedical fields. I want to help people in any way I can, whether it's using robotics to assist doctors in surgery, using robotics in rehabilitation, or using robots to employ people who cannot work. I want to use robotics to improve the medical field.

What hobbies have you been working on over COVID?
I've been crocheting a lot as I always have been. It's a good distraction, and I can include them in the care packages I drop to my friends!


Justin Francis

Justin Francis is the Software Team Co-Lead for the 2020/2021 year.

What year and discipline are you in?
I'm a 4th-year BSc. Computing Science Major Statistics Minor but doing a co-op this year with the University.

Why did you go into computer science?
I decided to go to University cause I was tired of being a bicycle mechanic and wanted to try something new.

What do you want to do as a career?
Career-wise, ideally, I would create my own company. If I found a career that lets me work all the time remotely and is challenging/interesting, I'd be happy with that too.

What hobbies have you been working on over COVID?
I really enjoy boating/sailing on the ocean since I've moved back to Vancouver Island, but I also really enjoy playing banjo and fixing up old bikes and boats.


Nigel Woodhouse

Nigel Woodhouse is the Admin Team Co-Lead for the 2020/2021 year.

What year and discipline are you in?
I am currently in my final year of an MEng in computer engineering, specializing in software and intelligent systems. I am excited to be graduating this December! My first degree was in mechanical engineering; I decided to transition disciplines upon returning to the University of Alberta to diversify my skillset and make myself more marketable to future employers. The transition also allows for a career in the booming tech industry, which I believe is the future.

Why did you go into engineering?
I had always been strong in mathematics and sciences; I have a soft spot for calculus in my heart. Growing up, I gravitated towards literature focused on physics. Due to my strong background in these subject areas, it made sense that the next step in my academic journey was to apply those skills through the engineering profession.

What do you want to do as a career?
An entrepreneurial endeavour is the best path for me moving forward. The opportunity to make my own decisions and pursue my interests is highly attractive; the journey's risk is exciting. I do not want to be a cog in a bureaucratic institution. A start-up organization may be a great place to begin my engineering career.

However, at this point, I do not know what that entrepreneurial endeavour is or what successes and failures lie in the fog ahead. A bachelor's in mechanical engineering and a master's in computer engineering is a pretty good place to start.

Last year, I had a conversation with one of my favourite professors from my undergraduate degree, Dr. Carlos Lange. Upon graduating, he suggested that I travel abroad, gain new experience, meet new people, learn a new language, pick up odd jobs, challenge myself, and live a life outside of academia. It is a compelling narrative and something that I wish to pursue, though the pandemic makes that option more complicated; adapt and persevere.

What hobbies have you been working on over COVID?
The pandemic has made things, well, interesting, though it has also provided the opportunity to retouch old hobbies. I started playing the piano again. I found a world-class Italian pianist, Ludovico Einaudi, and fell in love with his work. I Giorni, Nuvole Bianche, amazing pieces.

I own a "100 movies bucket list" poster, highlighting popular or revolutionary films everyone should watch. A friend and I have watched approximately a third of the movies during the pandemic. My favourites so far are Dirty Dancing, Her, The Truman Show, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Prestige, The Unusual Suspects, Good Will Hunting, the Back to the Future trilogy, plus the Bollywood movie 3 Idiots. It is a long list of good movies.

Do you have a fun fact, skill, or interest?
One of my passions is video making.

I took the concept of the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire and made it on YouTube!

The user faces 15 questions related to the platform and selects their answers on the screen to progress. The player could also get assistance through lifelines, similar to those from the original show: 50/50, phone a friend, and ask the audience.

The user can select any lifeline at any time. Many permutations arise from this. To maintain continuity for the use of any lifelines, 1,162 videos were filmed, edited, and uploaded for this one project!

My hard work was well received! I obtained 100,000 views and 7,800 subscribers! The project ranked 4th on r/videos on Reddit and featured on the Philip Defranco Show on May 22, 2018.


Thank you!

We want to thank all of our current members for their continued action and diligence over the trying year. Thank you to our many sponsors and donors for both financial and in-kind support over the past year. This includes the University of Alberta, Engineering Students Society, APEGA Foundation, General Dynamics, Methanex, Rail Shop Services Inc, AltaML, Honda, Sheel, Nortek, MARL Technologies, Travis CI, DC Solutions LTD, SolidWorks, ISS MineSafety, Fort Vermilion School Division 52, Hoskin Scientific, Cavalry Fence, GitHub, MacArtney Underwater Technology, Teledyne Technologies, Zubax, and of course Robosub. Lastly, I would like to extend another thank you to those who supported us in our Crowdfunding Campaign circa March. 

Lastly, thank you to Dr. Michael Lipsett, our academic advisor, and Raymond Matthias, Strategic Advisor to Associate Dean, who has coordinated a return-to-campus and safety protocol for the team.


Final Words

Many of us began the year with optimism; insert "hindsight 2020" joke here. At the beginning of the year, I wrote out many personal goals I had hoped to achieve over the course of this year. Because of the pandemic's consequences, many of those dreams were not realized; maybe I was too ambitious, maybe the weight of the global climate was too much to bear. But hey, there is always next year.

This year has provided much adversity to many people. At the beginning of 2020, no one could have predicted the type of year we were in for. It may still be another year before we return to normalcy; there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

We wish everyone and their families and safe Christmas holidays and a New Year. Hopefully, 2021 will be more forgiving. 

“You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, smarter than you think, and loved more than you'll ever know.” — A.A. Milne “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

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