Aquatic Colonels Ride Wave of Second Season

By Amelia Murphy ’19

The Aquatic Colonels participated in MATE’s (Marine Advanced Technology Education) ROV (remotely operated vehicles) competition last Saturday, April 27. This year, the competition was based on repairing dams and maintaining healthy waterways. Prior to the competition, the team came across many challenges, whether it was errors in the code, mistakes in fabrication or even forgetting to add a bolt. But, because of these challenges, our team has learned more from mistakes than what we may have learned from successes.

Going into the competition, we were excited, proud and curious about our underwater robot, which the team named Dolly. Dolly is named after Dolly Parton, who is from Tennessee, this year’s location of the international ROV competition in June.

During the ROV competition, each team gets two attempts at three main tasks. Each of these tasks has about 10 to 20 steps. Since there is just 15 minutes to accomplish a tremendous amount of work, teams must design a strategy of which tasks to complete. Our first attempt gave us a lot of trouble. Our two cameras and all six thrusters kept freezing. Unfortunately, we spent all of our first set of 15 minutes trying to restart the code and get Dolly swimming again.

After this first attempt, we had roughly a two-hour break before our second attempt. During this time, we began to analyze how and why Dolly kept freezing. After lots of troubleshooting, we prepared the ROV for our second attempt. However, due to some last-minute reconfigurations, we didn’t notice that the camera wasn’t pointing down at our claw. The claw enables us to perform many of the underwater tasks. Therefore, during our second and final attempt, we couldn’t see what we needed to pick up or manipulate. This resulted in a functional swimming Dolly but with a pilot “driving blind” with a misaligned camera.

Outside of our pool attempts, the team was able to score significant points in the engineering presentation and poster session. The judges (and other teams) were impressed by the design and engineering of the ROV.

The final scores have not yet been released. We do know that our team did not make it to the international competition in Tennessee. However, as a team, we are all proud of each other, Dolly and our coaches. This year’s competition is just the second year—and we have a lot to learn. As Dolly Parton once said “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” We have had two years of rain, but we see rainbows in our future.
Francis W. Parker School educates students to think and act with empathy, courage and clarity as responsible citizens and leaders in a diverse democratic society and global community.