Gas station without pumps

2010 December 4

Underwater ROV

Yesterday, I blogged about my hope to create a robotics club at my son’s high school.  Today he and I attended a 2-hour workshop at UCSC’s swimming pool (sponsored by the Seymour Center of the Long Marine Laboratory and MATE from Monterey Peninsula College) on building underwater remotely operated vehicles.

The workshop was to help teams get started with the regional competition for building and piloting underwater ROVs. The workshop had a small amount of pep talk and information about the competition, but mainly consisted of kids building prototypes and testing them in the pool.  The kids were provided with a 3-motor wiring harness and control panel:

Three bilge-pump motors with attached propellers, tether, 3 DPDT switches on control panel, and 12v power cord. The motors have been permanently attached to pieces of PVC pipe for ease in assembling protoype ROVs quickly.

There were also a lot of pre-cut PVC pieces and connectors (color coded for size):

Pre-cut PVC parts for building underwater remotely-operated vehicles.

My son joined up with two other high school students from another school (whose names he forgot and I never learned) and built a functional 3-axis vehicle that they could pilot well enough to hit the center of one of the crosses marking the ends of the swimming lanes:

Vehicle seen "flying" underwater. The pipe insulation is what provides the flotation, offsetting the weight of the motors to get slightly more than neutral buoyancy.

Some of the middle-school kids had more trouble with their designs, as they either added too much flotation, or made their designs planar, which resulted in maneuverability problems.  Note: this was strictly a parents-shut-up sort of workshop, so the designs were entirely by the kids, with some suggestions from the staff (like getting the designs into the water as soon as possible, so the prototypes could be redesigned or tweaked based on what went wrong).

It may be easier to get an ROV team started at the school than a robotics club, since there are already high schools in the area doing it, and the MATE program provides a lot of support for starting a team.  Now we just need for my son to recruit students to form a nucleus of a team, and find a teacher at the high school willing to sit around while I help the team get started.


  1. The 2011 competition information is available at

    If we do Scout class (about all I’d want the students to attempt for their first run), we do not need to pay a registration fee.

    Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2010 December 26 @ 18:04 | Reply

  2. The link to follow now to find material is
    (the MATE site is very confusing and hard to navigate). I’m sure there is some good stuff somewhere that I just haven’t found.

    Comment by gasstationwithoutpumps — 2011 January 10 @ 22:04 | Reply

  3. […] first project is to make a  remotely-operated underwater vehicle for the Monterey Bay Regional competition, which is part of the national competition.  The […]

    Pingback by High school Robotics Club started « Gas station without pumps — 2011 January 18 @ 03:53 | Reply

  4. […] The cameras are  for the underwater remotely-operated vehicle contest coming up in April.  I blogged about an earlier workshop in which my son played with building an ROV—the cameras are for such a vehicle. [Note: this […]

    Pingback by Waterproofing cameras for underwater ROVs « Gas station without pumps — 2011 February 13 @ 07:00 | Reply

  5. […] Underwater ROV […]

    Pingback by Second Blogoversary « Gas station without pumps — 2012 June 2 @ 18:15 | Reply

  6. […] Underwater ROV […]

    Pingback by 2012 in review « Gas station without pumps — 2012 December 31 @ 11:17 | Reply

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: