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Girls Underwater Robot Camp Alameda

October 10 2015

Girls Underwater Robot Camp immerses girls aged 13-17 into engineering and exploration using underwater robot kits developed by O​penROV.​Building an OpenROV as a team, each student learns to use hand tools, solder microelectronics, and basic marine technology design. High-intensity engineering workshops are followed by planning and running a micro-expedition in the field. Documenting along the way, girls also learn how to tell their story through social media, photography and filmmaking. Read more at

October 10 2015


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Mission Underway

Excitement runs through the girls (and us instructors!) when we take the robot out for its first saltwater testing. For this micro-expedition, we explored the docks and pilings of the Alameda Marina--discovering a surprisingly colorful menagerie of bright orange sponges, ramen-like translucent seaweeds, tiny shrimp-like amphipods--and even a diving cormorant! In addition to recording marine life sightings, girls learned to keep a log of dives with depths and notes on robot performance and maintenance for future reference, since this robot will be traveling back and forth between these OpenROV pilots in California and Hawaii!


It's all hands on deck for the final steps in assembling an OpenROV, as all the structural, mechanical and electrical components come together and finally start to look like a robot! Next up is systems testing of the motors, moveable camera, led lights and lasers, before a dunk in the freshwater test tank to confirm that all seals are watertight. This group passed both sets of testing without a hitch!


Engineering a tool is part of the expedition process, but not the entire process. On the first day of Camp the girls write down their dream expedition target, we build the ROV over two days and on the third day we delve into expedition planning.

How much will food cost for each team member?
Do we need to charter a boat?
Do we need sleeping accommodations?
How much is insurance?
What type of camera gear will we bring, and who is trained to use it?

These are a few of the questions we outline, answer, and then head out to explore!


Dive Logging is integral to any real world expedition. We take notes extensively in the field and at Girls Underwater Robot Camp, we start logging the ROVs stats from the first moment the lights blink awake.

When the ROV is ready to dive, Keona steps up to recording dive analytics.

As we launch any new tool into the underwater environment we are particularly interested in:

The amp draw from each battery pod
The internal electronics temperature
The external water temperature
The ROV's maneuverability to ensure all the ESCs are properly programmed and calibrated

And of course checking for lights and live video feed from the camera.


Something happens when the ROV is nearing completion. It gains its own personality. A little piece of everyone who's had a hand in its creation.

This time around, the OpenROV took on the personality of the beautiful Arctic Minke whale. With a custom paint job to send it on its first test dive in style!


Really like this photo. And the whale deco.

Preparation Stage

First steps are often the most gratifying! When it comes to OpenROV 2.8 the first task is to acrylic weld a bag full of 2 dimensional acrylic parts into a recognizable 3 dimensional frame for the ROV. Outfitted in gloves and safety glasses, it's a brilliant way to get the first morning of camp started!

Here, Team Brawn moves quickly through construction of the plastic frame of the ROV, while their partner pair, Team Brain, gets started building out the control unit.


From welding acrylic to wielding a dremel, girls pick up some handy shop skills along the way. In this camp, the girls even designed and constructed their own tether management system for their robot’s 100m tether!


One of the favorite parts of camp? Learning to solder! Soldering is a basic way to attach two wires together with high heat and a filler metal. From connecting the motors to wiring the lightboard, girls return to the solder gun again and again, mastering the art of a shiny solder joint by the end of camp.


As we build the robot as a team, girls learn shop skills along the way—and have an opportunity to share their knowledge. ROV pilot-in-training Keona said that in addition to building the motors and soldering, "most of all I liked that I got to help other girls build a robot that can go pretty deep to explore oceans!"


For this Girls Underwater Robot Camp, we had an exciting opportunity to build our little OpenROV at Deep Ocean Exploration and Research, where engineers design and build big working-class ROVs (remotely-operated vehicles) and submersibles!

Expedition Background

For this camp, we have a unique opportunity to build and test our little underwater robot at Deep Ocean Exploration and Research--a working facility that engineers ROVs and submersibles, giving participants a glimpse at a real-world engineering space!

This program is limited to 6 ROV Pilots-In-Training to ensure everyone gets a piece of the action while building, testing and piloting the ROV--and documenting along the way.

Erika Bergman, National Geographic Explorer and Submersible Pilot
Samantha Wishnak, Marine Science and Technology Educator

Girls aged 13-17 years old

Saturday, October 10th to Monday, October 12th
Program will run 10:00-3:30pm daily
Parents and families are welcome to join us on Monday at 1:00 pm for our micro-expedition off the dock of DOER Marine.

Important notes: Participants need to bring own lunches and a reusable water bottle. Snacks will be provided.

Sea you soon!