James Clemens students conquer in ‘Battle of the Underwater Robots’

Members of the Underwater Robotics Team at James Clemens High School are Holden Wells, from left, Ethan Canup, Spencer Barnes, Eli Canup and Jack Cook. (CONTRIBUTED)
Members of the Underwater Robotics Team at James Clemens High School are Holden Wells, from left, Ethan Canup, Spencer Barnes, Eli Canup and Jack Cook. (CONTRIBUTED)

MADISON – Young engineers from James Clemens High School surfaced to top place of their class in the “Battle of the Underwater Robots” in Mobile.

Bishop State Community College opened its pool for the competition on April 17-19. Dauphin Island Sea Lab’s education and outreach program hosted the third annual Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) competition for middle and high school students.

An ROV is an underwater robot tethered to surface controls that drive and manipulate the unit.

“We won first place in the Navigator class. We also had the highest score among all classes in the presentation portion of the event,” sponsor and engineering teacher Greg Ennis said.

Team members are senior Noah Eid; juniors Spencer Barnes, Ethan Canup and Prudvi Gadireddy; and sophomores Eli Canup, Jack Cook and Holden Wells.

James Clemens’ ROV contains four motors and speed controllers, two Arduino microprocessors, 40-foot tether, four underwater cameras, joystick, 12-volt power source and video equipment. Its frame is primarily PVC pipe.

“The ROV has several attachments that can perform competition tasks. It’s approximately two feet by two feet by two feet and weighs about 22 pounds,” Ennis said.

A central, waterproof control compartment houses subsurface electronics. The tether connects to the surface control box that interprets joystick commands and distributes power, data and video signals, Ennis said.

The ROV can remove items form the ‘ocean’ floor, turn valves and carry items and tools. Students guide all tasks through video feeds with actually seeing the ROV.

“Our students learn a tremendous amount about electricity, electronics, microprocessors, video equipment, mechanical design, waterproofing, buoyancy and marine engineering,” Ennis said. They also deal with teamwork, public speaking, budgeting and deadlines.

The competition “pushes them to learn lots of different engineering and scientific concepts beyond the classroom … in a fun setting,” Ennis said.

Underwater robotics is open to all James Clemens students. The team assembles in August and works through April.

In 2016, James Clemens will be eligible to enter a class for international competition. For more information, visit deep-c.org.

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