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Underwater competitors

Eastern Edge Robotics seeks fifth international title in Tennessee

Student Life

By Moira Baird

Memorial’s Eastern Edge Robotics team is looking for its fifth world championship at the 2019 MATE International ROV Competition this week.

Some members of the 22-person Eastern Edge Robotics team.
Photo: Richard Blenkinsopp

Teams from the around the world are gathered in Kingsport, Tenn., to pilot the remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to perform a series of underwater tasks in the competition organized by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center in the U.S.

Reimagined and redesigned

This year, Eastern Edge Robotics designed and built a new ROV named Calypso. Calypso is equipped with high-tech cameras, extra thrusters and new tools, including a micro-ROV small enough to inspect the interior of a three-inch drainpipe.

“We have a completely new ROV this year,” said Michaela Barnes, a recent ocean mapping graduate and the team’s chief executive officer.

While the Calypso is similar in shape to the team’s previous ROVs, the members streamlined the robot’s electronics to make it easier to troubleshoot and beefed up its propulsion.

“Troubleshooting is a constant part of the competition,” said Ms. Barnes. “We also added two thrusters so this year we have eight.”

As part of its competition submission to the MATE Center, the team put together a demonstration video about the ROV’s design, construction and performance.

The ROV is named for HMS Calypso, the training vessel for the Newfoundland Royal Naval Reserve prior to the First World War.

Each team in the university Explorer class will perform a series of simulated, real-world tasks, including inspecting and repairing a hydroelectric dam; monitoring water quality, determining habitat diversity and restoring fish habitat; and recovering a Civil War era cannon, as well as marking the location of unexploded cannon shells.

Testing and practising

The team arrived in Tennessee a few days before start of the competition on June 20, giving them time to reassemble their ROV and test it.

They will also practise the competition tasks in their hotel pool during the night and make any improvements to the ROV during the day. Charity Talbot, an electrical engineering student and the team’s chief safety officer, says the strategy is to have the robot in the water “as much as possible.”

“In the end, it comes down to practising and if we have enough practice, we can do very well in this competition.”

Top honours

Eastern Edge Robotics has earned top honours four times at the international ROV competition – most recently in 2016.

The team consists of 22 post-secondary students enrolled in a variety of programs at the Marine Institute and Memorial, including underwater vehicles, computer science, ocean mapping, engineering and business.

“We started early this time.” — Michaela Barnes

Working evenings and weekends, the team came up with the ROV’s preliminary design last August, tested a prototype in MI’s acoustics tank in December and spent the past winter refining the robot.

“We started early this time and were months ahead of where we were last year,” said Ms. Barnes.

N.L. high school teams

Also in Tennessee for the international competition are three Newfoundland and Labrador high school teams participating in the Ranger class: Mount Pearl Senior High School, O’Donel High from Mount Pearl and Heritage Collegiate from Lethbridge.

They were among the 32 high and junior high school teams that participated in the annual N.L. Regional ROV Competition held May 2-4 at the Marine Institute’s flume tank.

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