Remotely Operated Vehicle for Education and Research

It is difficult to see and collect scientific data underwater. Diving and the use of underwater vehicles can be expensive and dangerous. Therefore, acquiring or accessing data for schools to study such environments is often not possible. The Bow High School InvenTeam decided to create a submersion vessel, dubbed the ROVER (Remotely Operated Vehicle for Education and Research), to collect underwater data. Using a laptop computer, web cams, and current data collection interfaces and sensors, the ROVER would be a more affordable tool for schools to conduct scientific educational research. The ROVER is controlled on land by a laptop (with a backup battery for extra power) and monitored by a digital camcorder that records video. The laptop is tethered to the ROVER by 300 feet of Ethernet category 5e network cable, one-eighth inch inner-diameter vinyl tubing, and one-fourth inch nylon braided rope. The network cable connects to a network switch with four ports. Attached to these ports are the various components such as the USB network server, the web cam, and the digital control unit (DCU). The waterproof body of the ROVER encloses the electronics and is made of PVC pipe. The camera hides behind a circular hole covered with clear acrylic. There are two motor/propellers that are mounted on separate pieces of pipe. The ROVER's body is connected to a base by adjustable bungee cords. There are pieces of steel rod inserted into the bottom for added weight. The Bow High School InvenTeam first brainstormed ideas for various data communication systems of the ROVER. After some experimentation, Chris Stebbins, a computer technology assistant at Bow High School, recommended using a USB network server. Next, the team worked on the motors. Steve Ryan, a project mentor from Vernier Software and Technology, helped the team develop software to drive the motors. Then, the students created a circuit to power the motors using eight solid-state relays. They also experimented with different propellers. Students in other engineering and technology classes at Bow High School designed a waterproof body with propulsion and a simple ballast system. The team received guidance and discounts from Vernier Software and Technology, in addition to discounts from local stores. The Bow High School InvenTeam is satisfied with the progress of its invention, and the students learned a great deal from their invention experience. It is hoped that other classes will receive funding to continue to improve the invention, such as adding more sensors, utilizing the additional USB ports, and exploring the ROVER's potential to walk or crawl on the bottom of a body of water.