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Oakland ESA Underwater Explorers

February 12 2015
Our mission is to... -to se(a) underwater -to learn more about our environment -to gain experience as engineers and explorers -to EXPLORE! Where do we want to go?: -SF Bay -Lake Merritt -Baja California -Hawaii -Point Reyes -Great Barrier Reef -Catalina Island -The Red Triangle -Half Moon Bay -Ports and Marinas -MLK Shoreline

February 12 2015


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Preparation Stage

We showed our OpenROV 2.6 to students at the Cal Maritime Summer Academic Enrichment Program.


From Reginald:

I'll be the first to admit that this post is way overdue. I guess the problem was that I couldn't find the right words to describe how things went. But I'll try my best to...
Working on the ROV this past year was truly a great experience. Building things had never been something I had much confidence in. Yet with my friends helping me build it, I can now see why people find engineering to be so interesting. Spending time after school trying to figure out how pieces come together or troubleshooting... these were things that I could do with full focus and enjoy. And after we all came to the OpenROV office to fix all the little kinks in both our machines (the 2.6 and 2.7), my first thoughts were on how well both of them, especially the 2.7, would do in open water.
The answer to that question is horribly.
At Catalina Island, Mr. Desai, Kahlil, and me rode out on a boat to a spot in the ocean where we could test out the potential of both machines. It was a warm day, and feeling the cold water on me I thought things would go as planned. We first tested the 2.6, seeing as it was the elder of the two. In hindsight, I wish the 2.7 had gone first. Even though the 2.6 was completely at the mercy of the waves, and was basically brutalized, it survived. The only reason we didn't continue using it was that the Arduino got completely soaked, rendering it inoperable for the time being.
Learning from that awful, yet insightful event, we went to calmer waters to see how the 2.7 would do. And let me say: it was amazing. Since I had the most experience with her, I was designated as the pilot. During those few moments, the one thing that kept popping up in my head was,"FISH!!!" even though there were only 2 kinds: the Garibaldi and Blacksmith. I spent the duration of our time following each until I lost sight of them. Everything was going well until I started to pursue the last school of Blacksmith fish. They bobbed and weaved, twisted and turned, trying to stay away from me, yet I wasn't losing ground! I got so caught up in the pursuit that I failed to notice my surroundings. Before I knew it, the 2.7 was tangled in seaweed.
At that point, I tried every possible combination of rotor movements to get it unstuck. Nothing worked. With no other options, Mr. Desai started to pull in the tether. I was desperate to get it back, so at that point, anything would do. Everything was gonna be alright. We'd get it back, fix the problems, and try again.
Then the tether came back... without the ROV.
I'm not going to focus on what happened afterwards, because almost none of it was good. Long story short, the 2.7 got carried away by currents. It was a day of triumph, loss, joy, and sorrow. There are many things I learned from it though, all to make sure that the things that happened to both the 2.6 and 2.7 don't happen to our next ROV.

Is there any way to waterproof the Arduino?
Can any type of mesh be put with the propellers so that nothing catches on?

Any other useful tips would be greatly appreciated! And thanks for reading my incredibly long monologue!

Ouch! Sorry for the loss. I've had a couple close calls with my 2.7 as well getting tangled on a wreck.
You can try some of the experimental coating for the control board discussed in the forums, but I don't know of any off-hand.
As for the mesh, you might want to try integrating it directly to the frame, but you'll have to use large pieces. One piece on the bottom, one piece on the back and and a few pieces around the vents.

It seems like we didn't progress into clicking the stages. Well these recent posts are more of a debriefing because we already went exploring. :)

Here's an overview of my experience with OpenROV last year continuing this year.

This is Andrew, graduating this year from OHS (Senior):


Discovering OpenROV ‘14
It never would see myself in this position before, being in OpenROV and exploring amazing places with it. I thought that it would be a great experience which in the end, it was. I started working on OpenROV near the middle of the first semester of junior year in Oakland High School, I was getting to class and I happened to come across one of the Environmental Science Academy coordinator and teacher, Dr. Noonan. She told me there was a presentation, about some new robotic thing and as a person who is extremely interested in technology at the time, I agreed to come to this presentation. The day of, when walking into the building, coincidentally I happened to come across David whom is the co-founder of OpenROV. In the small time talking to him about the project he told me that the project was recently just funded by Kickstarter, and as a tech savvy student, I was excited. I honestly never thought I would be working with a company that started from kickstarter, but being honest, I worked with this project just because it was started from Kickstarter … and because of robotics and building..

The beginning of the building process was a blur, the only things I remembered were the challenges that were introduced in building the ROV. Problems like getting everything organized and finding specific materials were the main problems, but one of the things that was a challenge was actually connecting all the wires and soldering. After we used acrylic cement to connect everything and sawing, we were faced with the challenge of soldering, which included organizing and patience. I’m a pretty patient guy really, but the soldering job was just a hit or miss in where me and my team were spending hours on end trying to connect wires together, disconnecting wires, and preventing the so called “bridges”. Burning the electronics, each other, and etc was a really interesting experience, but in all we learned a lot. When we finished the robot we were introduced into another problem: the Chromebook Problem.
So our main operating system that we had to operate on was Chromebook, and from my assumptions, I thought it wouldn’t work on chromebook because from all the presentations I saw from OpenROV is was either operated by Mac or by PC, never saw a chromebook, and still never seen a chromebook in the OpenROV office. So when we needed to connect the OpenROV to the cockpit, it was a complicated challenge, it was one of the things that pretty much I had to figure out when solving this problem we had. Research and research pertaining about Chromebooks and OpenROV were practically non-existent. Though from searching through setting and using a usb type connector for an ethernet cable, I finally figured out how to operate on the chromebook: By using the Ethernet cable and connecting to the ROV, booting it. When going into the ethernet settings within the Chromebook, I found that it was similar to setting it up on a PC, which from those directions I followed. From there, it worked, and that was the most exciting day within working with the project, solving a challenge that was not presented within the directions or by the company, solving it myself. Which now since that problem we solved we continued to the exploring experience.

When we finished the ROV we were excited to start on the exploration phase. We started to test it out inside the tank in the original OpenROV office. From our tests we were successful, and from there we just explored only in freshwater. All dives we were successful in freshwater, we did have some complications such as the suction cups, but those were fixed at that time. Days/Weeks after successfully finishing the robot, we finally set it to the test to go to Catalina Island. When at Catalina, we were excited to put it into the ocean in which took a few hours to prepare for. Fast forward to the dive, the ROV drowned. When the ROV drowned we encountered another challenge: dealing with salt water. In learning from the experts in the OpenROV makers, we learned that salt water intrusion could potentially or will break the electronic chamber and fry the batteries. When we got back to the shore we called, the people in ROV were very friendly, and we solved it in no time, sacrificing a few batteries, and some parts in the electronic chamber. So from that experience in drowning, we learned to make sure there are no flaws in which would make saltwater enter into the ROV.
Weeks after Catalina, after fixing the electronics, we set out to go on our second expedition: Lake Merritt. Fast forwarding again to that day, it was pretty amazing. OpenROV set up a control station at the boathouse, and we explored near the bridge of Lake Merritt. From there, we saw a lot of different organisms, we saw crabs, clams, and other different kind of species. It was one of those things that was amazing to see and operate. Lake Merritt was the last expedition of that year and in that next upcoming year, we set out for a new robot and new challenges.

The OpenROV Team 15’
Starting the year as a senior was stressful: college applications, scholarships, and more work. It was intimidating to work on all these things including other extracurricular activities. Though as the time progressed into the the new year of 2015, the new OpenROV Team happened. As a captain of this building team, my goal and my teammates goals were to complete this project in no time explore the oceans without a problem! Even though the new kit was easier, we faced the same challenges as last time: disorganization and soldering. Just to make this shorter, we finished building the robot in two months which was half of the time that we finished last year. From the improved compaction of the ROV and swiftness of the design, I was sure that our next trip to Catalina was going to be a success. Fast forward to Catalina, it was not. We thought no problems would persist, but we had complications that we didn’t consider at the time. Things such as finding out how strong the waves were or if there would be any intrusion within operating the ROV. Because of the waves and the intrusion of kelp, we lost ROV in the ocean due to the wire cutting off by the strong pull of waves. From there, we hoped for the best as if Catalina workers could find the robot, which they yet didn’t find it. So, what did the team learn? We learned that we needs to take things that we don’t think about into accountability, such as have strong the waves were. And we also learned that at times recklessness can cause flaws into our work. We learn from our mistakes and improve on them. It’s a part of life and with failure comes success.

Ever since being in OpenROV and experiencing the challenges and failure within doing this project, I learned a lot. I learned how to move, on, I learned how to fix problems, and I learned how to improve. Thanks to OpenROV, I have developed patience and discipline. These skills learnt from this experience will make me succeed in college or yet maybe become one of the workers in OpenROV, helping create new solutions and introducing problems. For now though, I have to leave this team, as it is for me to experience a new life in college and responsibilities for myself and the future. I appreciate all the help from OpenROV and I hope, which i’m sure you will, that you will continue to help Oakland High School build another successful robot in end, doing a successful launch in Catalina.

Here are some things that I would suggest to OpenROV and to explorers:
Create a Cockpit setup guide for Chromebooks.
Some people can’t afford an expensive laptop
Give future explorers advice on how to conquer tough waves and other obstacles when exploring different places
Make a saltwater tank
Create/Get a wave stimulator if possible.
Get a device that would test how much pull that a wire for an ROV can take.
Make the design as so it could go through kelp in an ease.

Thanks for Everything!

This is Kahlil:
When we arrived at Catalina Island, we encountered several issues with the R.O.V. There wasn’t a mounting spot constructed for the gopro. So that lead it astray in the currents making it impossible to steer, another issue we had was once the R.O.V. went under water we had no clue where we were going. We also had issues on the boat as well, because of the glare we could hardly see anything on the screen of the computer. The camera on the rov wasn't very useful because we couldn't take any pictures or videos so to fix that we had someone hold a towel over the person on the computer so that there wouldn’t be as much glare on the computer. Our ardunio dropped because the boat was moving with the current so it became useless for the rest of the day. When the ardunio got wet because it dropped we had to flush it out with DIY water and then blow out all the water with compressed air. Because of that experience, I think that we should put some water-proofing around the ardunio so that the problem would not occur again for further expansions. After we blew out the water, the arduino worked properly from then on.

How do scientists deal with finding direction under the water? Also how do you over come the currents because we could not fight it when our ROV got hung up on sea weed.

Ah, welcome to the world of salt-water ROV'ing. As for the direction problem, Jim Trezzo is working on an acoustic location system:

Until that is finished, you are limited to a compass and a best guess. My suggestion is to use a "downline" with an anchor and a buoy to give you a reference point. I've tested it with my OpenROV #1790.

For the currents, there isn't anything right now. Maybe once support for more thusters gets added.

Tamia Proctor
9th grade student , Oakland high

Questions for my team

What happened during the excursions for the ROV bot to get lost?
What are some of the pros and cons of the designs

Unfortunately I did not get to go on the trip to Catalina Island, but I did get the chance to help build the ROV. We faced a few little problems while building. With everything you do in life comes challenges. One predicament that we were in was a misplaced plastic piece. We placed the piece in the wrong spot and cemented it, which cause other pieces to not fit. We tried to snap it to put it in the right place, but it didn't work. It was acrylic cement so we figured nail polish remover, or acetone would dissolve it. Little did we know acetone dissolves and damages plastic. The piece cracked and split internal from the acetone. We thought it was done and would have to throw our hard work in the trash. So, I came up with the idea to fill the crack with acrylic cement and it was good to go. Im sure there was other problems within different groups. In terms of me being sad because I put in work to build it and it being lost, I wasn’t. Theres no such thing as failure but lessons. Hopefully we learned to next time time correct the mistake that caused it to get lost. A good experience is all that matters.Joining ROV was defiantly something Ive never done before but I am proud of myself for doing it. This is a great thing to add to my resume and hopefully continue on with ROV and maybe participate on one of the trips.

This is Andy of Oakland High's OpenROV.
The excursions was very fun and interesting. I had never thought that the ROV would be tangled in the weeds. I never thought that because I though that the tie would hold. Even so, the though that it could even last that long awed me. To think that an ROV made by high school students would be able to go into the sea for that long is amazing. Though I wanted to, I wasn't able to pilot the ROV. Next time, I suggest a larger boat so that everyone could have a chance. They did participate to make the ROV. When we get our next ROV, I expect everything to go smother because of all the experience that we have gained.

From Melinda:

I made the hubcaps for the sunken ROV. Even though I might not ever see them again, I am glad my hubcaps got the opportunity to even go out far into Catalina. At first it was hard for me to even glue them together because I had trouble at first for using the glue to even glue the actual pieces together. But at Catalina when I actually got to see the ROV we made move in the water, I felt really proud of what I did and that it helped further my experience in the field of robotics. I am glad that I got the opportunity to embark on this robotic adventure and experience the wonders of creating something you made with your friends and then losing it in the domain of the mighty sea god Poseidon.

Questions: How did you feel when you saw the ROV we made in the water move and function?

Would you say this club gave you a truly better insight on robotics?

What would you do differently if you had the chance to rebuild our bot?

This is so wonderful Melinda!

I think it would be great to "round robin" the student's interview questions. Each student answers the two questions posed to them by one of their peers.

Meanwhile, I'm out looking for illustrators to do some drawings for an article about your expedition!

Great work! Keep em coming!

From Angela:

-Thoughts about the project :
It's really cool and I learn a ton more about underwater robots. So far, I've learned many skills which include soldering, tinning, and even stripping wires. During the whole process of the project, I actually learn and have fun at the same time for a change.

-My story:
The OpenROV project is one of the projects that I will remember for the rest of my life because It's one of the first few robotics projects I have worked on. When I first joined, I was excited because I wanted to be able to build a robot that could go underwater and discover a world different from being on land. I also slowly became more interested in building and testing things.

-2 interview questions:
1. Why did you stay even after we tested the robot?
2. What did you gain from this project?

Title: Shark Tank Story

Author: Uriel Lopez

Subject: Recapulation of Catalina Events

Hello, I am Uriel Lopez a member of the OpenROV team at Oakland High School. I am here today to deliver a piece of my experience with the OpenROV from when we recently went down to Catalina Island. The experience I will share is when we were testing the ROV for leaks and to make sure it was balanced correctly. It was late because we were preparing for tomorrow and the location where we were going to test the ROV was a little far from the office where we were working. That didn't bring me down though, because the stars were out and bright making the trip to the tank beautiful. The tank we were going to test the ROV was a shark tank and that made me excited. The ROV would get to make contact with living aquatic creatures for the first time and it did. We first went through the pre-diving procedures making sure it was safe to submerge the vehicle inside the water and then we dipped it in. The lights on the ROV worked beautifully and the lasers helped with navigation. The sharks seemed to be attracted and at the same time repelled by the strange creature that was the ROV. There was also a giant sea hare in the tank and when we first saw it intrigued me. Through the ROV camera the sea hare looked like a big ,dark, and slimy being, until we realized we were looking at its back-side. We tested the motors and movement for the ROV, but in doing so scared some rays. The rays kept on running and sometimes it seemed like they were trying to inspect the ROV. The lights on the ROV were indeed strong, so when we concluded the test I worried about the health of the animals that were in the tank, but they seemed fine. I greatly appreciated that the OpenROV was animal friendly and loved testing it. It was a joy to use the ROV and I had a blast down in Catalina. I would like to thank the OpenROV team and all of the Oakland High ESA teachers for making this experience possible.


What an incredible story teller! This would be a great first entry in your 'pilot log' with some photos or drawings. Are you up for some illustrating?

Kahlil Motley is a 10th grade student here at Oakland High School. Three things that he is passionate about are mechanical engineering, playing video games and anima.

Question: What excites you about robots?
Answer: I mean, robots are just fun! Starting out with little gears, scrap metal and plastic and ending with a functioning thing that does what you program it to do is amazing.

Question: What excites you about OpenRov?
Answer: Further exploring my passion for engineering and getting a step into the door for that world. The experience building, testing and running would help me in developing my career path.

Question: What has it taught you so far?
Answer: I am learning how to work with my hands with a variety of tools. I am also learning to troubleshoot and learn from my mistakes while working together with people in a group.

Question: What do you want to see when we get the OpenRov underwater?
Answer: I'm hoping that it'll go without many issues, like flooding. Also, I want to see what is below the surface. This is a perspective we don't get to see often with our bodies of water.

Question: Do you think we need more projects like this for students at Oakland High? Why?
Answer: Yeah! It teaches us about teamwork and not just working alone. You make friends along the way and further progress your skills. It also pushes the limits of your creativity. Other students could definitely benefit from this kind of project. It's fun and you get to learn things at the same time.


Andy Lin is a 9th grade student here at Oakland High School. He likes to eat, sleep and stay alive (who doesn't?).

Question: What excites you about robots?
Answer: They can move, and stuff. And they can do stuff. They can also help people

Question: What excites you about OpenRov?
Answer: I can work on it.

Question: What do you want to see when we get the OpenRov underwater?
Answer: I want to see what kinds of pollution have accumulated at the bottoms of our bodies of water.

Question: Do you think we need more projects like this for students at Oakland High?
Answer: Yes, because different students learn in different ways.


Team Member Blog Post

Name: Uriel Lopez

Question: What attracts you to the ROV project?
Answer: The whole act of creating something that can explore the unknown to me is fascinating and exciting. Open ROV gives me the opportunity to learn a little more about my community and I like how this project contributes to my knowledge of engineering.

Q: What did you do today?
A: We assembled the main structures and cemented them. We did something to the motors.

Q: Where should our ROV go to explore?
A: The ROV should explore the various lakes and maybe large pond of Oakland like Lake Merritt and such.


LIttle micro-interviews are great! What a nice perspective, glad they are interested in exploring their nearby waters, there's a surprising amount to still be discovered even in places we see everyday. Who knows, maybe you'll salvage a fancy rolex, or a nice cell phone along the way!

What attracts me to this project is my fascination for robots for their whole being and complexity and also an opportunity to work with my fellow peers. Where I would like to explore with the ROV is anywhere I am able to. -- Melinda B.


In the process of building the main structure, we noticed that a gap had formed in a crucial joint from a previous day of building.

When we tried to push the parts together to remove the gap, it would not budge. So we attempted to use acetone, a powerful solvent, to remove the acrylic cement in an attempt to re-position the part to remove the gap. The combination of pulling and the acetone caused deep internal cracks to form in the motor structure, hindering our

We resolved this issue by attempting a repair of the two parts that were damaged using the acrylic cement. After careful repair and consultation with the mentors we are satisfied that the repair is strong and that we can continue with the build of the robot.


This is a good example of how the structure is actually welded together! I'm glad you brought it up. The acrylic pieces are welded, not glued. The solvent we use dissolves both sides of the two pieces to be joined, and as it evaporates the liquidized acrylic melds together. Another solvent, like acetone will not dissolve the acrylic joint, however, more acrylic solvent can be applied to detach and reattach the two pieces. It's Science! Good luck team!

Expedition Background

Oakland High Students and supporting members taking on the wild blue unknown to engineer, learn and EXPLORE!