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Little Creek PlayLab: ROV

November 1 2014

As an oyster farm in New York's Peconic Bay, stewardship of our waterways is one of our primary missions. Often we find our community thinks of the water only in terms of recreation, and what's happening on the surface. We are excited to create a program to help showcase what's happening below. We propose to build an expedition team comprised of students, community members, and fellow oyster growers. Our mission will be to sample and map our water for nitrogen levels, algae types, salinity and more. We will explore the artificial ecosystems created around the oyster cages, as well as eelgrass restoration efforts.

November 1 2014


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Name: Ian Wile
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Preparation Stage

Build Update: Potting the motors (A Setback)

As most of our planned expeditions in and around the Peconic Estuary will be salt water dives, we have been following some of the threads re: potting the motors against saltwater corrosion.

We successfully created a mold using painters tape as suggested and filled the windings with the epoxy. After curing there were some areas that the epoxy had not reached. Most of the untouched area was on the top (the side opposite the mount. As the other end had sealed, we repeated the mold, without the bottom covered and filled from the other end as needed.

When this cured, the motors looked amazing! Perfectly smooth, no gaps.

However- the Flow Mix epoxy must not have dispensed evenly through the applicator. The epoxy is tacky and is not curing!

We will try to remove the touch up layer and hope we don't damage the motors in the process. It seems that either acetone (if it is more resin) or soap & water (if hardener) will assist.

Stand by.

Oh this is good intel. I'm about to start potting mine soon.

What about aiding the curing process by putting it in a low oven.

I tried some heat, but I think that there just wasn't enough of one of the sides. I wiped the motors with acetone to remove uncured resin, but it was still tacky. Now I have given them a bit of a soapy bath and we may be back in track. We were so close- hoping this gets us back!

Subject: ROV Build Day 3-Test Fit and a visit from the world of high-end ROVs
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

By the end of day#3 we test fit the E-tube into the completed frame. What a morale boost!

We were very fortunate to have had a visit from Graham, a very knowledgable ROV professional who has build and managed ROV's to very grand scales. We had some great talks about tether management, autopilot concepts, some tips and tricks of the trade re: electronics, waterproofing, tether float strategies and more. We look forward to coming back to him for more information as we start to get the ROV wet.

We continue to be thrilled that we are able to change our oyster shack into a tinkers lab and further that this has enabled us to connect everyone from a 6 year old kid to highly experienced technicians, programmers, artisans and others.

Thanks once again to OpenROV and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation for the tremendous opportunity.


Subject: ROV Build Day 3- The Brains
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

Meanwhile the electronics really started to come together. We've wired up the ESC's, controller board, assembled the lights and camera and fitted the Beaglebone. Those ESC's are a tight fit!

It seems like every step forward now is a big one!

We should be in good shape for a first power up at our next build session.


Looking great! I can't wait to see you get it in the bay!

Subject: ROV Build Day 3-Starting to come together!
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

We have been working in small pods on the ROV and build day#3 represented the first day where all the various completed sections start coming together. (We have been following the Team Build Flowchart suggested at the top of the documentation.)

Every week we find that we gain some new team members as more find out about the project. This week was no exception. What was unusual was that we found our team average age looked to be about 7. With an aggressive set of goals and some of the more complicated steps, we were worried that our group would have trouble connecting to the project. To their credit they all found a place in the day and were especially effective in their contributions to the team working on getting the frame and battery tubes connected to the body of the ROV.


Subject: ROV Build Day 2-Electronics Begin!
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

Finally, some of the brains are starting to come together! Daniel forged ahead and completed the Topside Adapter and prepped all the Speed Controllers for connection to the Controller board.

Just as with the acrylic welding steps, everyone took a shot at some practice time to learn soldering.


I love these build montages! So cool to have everyone involved!

Subject: ROV Build Day 2
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

Meanwhile, the Construction team completed work on the E-Tube and electronics chassis.


Subject: ROV Build Day 2
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

Things really seemed to move ahead on our second build day. We had an ambitious set of goals and the team was ready to get moving right away.

Once again we broke into smaller build groups.

The "Propulsion Team" completed wiring the new leads and getting the motors ready for potting.


Build Day 1: Status

We had a great first day and the few hours went by all too quickly. We were very pleased with the progress and look forward to resuming work on Saturday 11/22.

At the end of day 1 we have completed the main internal structure, built the battery tubes/endcaps and have prepped the motors for their new longer leads.

The team is looking forward to a strong start next weekend!


What a team! Next week you get to start building the BRAINS!

Build Day 1:
Desoldering the motor leads.


Once the build was underway, we broke into smaller groups to get other components underway.

Here, Jackson takes on the daunting task of prepping the motors for new leads. Slicing off the heat shrink and desoldering the shorter leads.

Build note: removing the c-clips from the motor bell took a village. I would suggest adding a c-clip removal tool to the tool list.


Build Day 1:
Creating young mad scientists.


Build Day 1:

Acrylic welding 101 and completing the internal frame. We worked this stage together so everyone could get some acrylic welding experience.



Subject: ROV Build Day 1
Location: Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market

Our group gathered at the Little Creek Oyster's HQ in Greenport, NY on Saturday 11/15 to get our build underway. Tables usually spread with oysters and drinks were covered in kraft paper and spread with tools and parts.

We took part of the morning to get through some introductions- our group has a wide range of ages (7-45!), experiences, and backgrounds. We spent some time talking about OpenROV, open-source concepts, potential expeditions, and more.

Following some unboxing and much needed lessons on acrylic welding we jumped in and started our build. Everyone pitched in on the internal frame assembly and then moved into smaller groups to get some of the other components moving.



Our OpenROV components have all arrived and we are set to begin our community-build on Saturday 11/15 at 9am. If you haven't already, stop by in person at the Little Creek Oyster Farm & Market to let us know you are coming.

You can also now sign up via

If you can't make build day#1, there will plenty of opportunities to join the team- building, testing and of course expeditions!


You're just a cross the water from us. I wish I could attend your build and excited about seeing whats going on under the waves in my backyard. The ROV will provide an interesting view of the marine ecosystems.

Thanks for the encouragement Michael. If you find your way over any time, let me know! I look forwrd to sharing what the mini-ecosystems around the oyster farms look like.

Expedition Background

"The Peconic Estuary exhibits a rich mosaic of coastal and underwater habitats that support diverse communities and 140 globally and locally rare species. The distinctive ecology of the Peconic Estuary can be attributed to its unique fresh groundwater source and the restriction of water flow out of the estuary by Shelter Island.

The Peconic Estuary and its watershed have been identified as one of The Nature Conservancy’s “Last Great Places” in the western hemisphere."

-The Nature Conservancy

Little Creek Oysters is a modern oyster farm fortunate enough to be located in this unique environment. We feel honored to act as stewards of this resource and work to educate our friends, neighbors and customers. In addition, we have long felt that there is a missing opportunity in our schools. Our students are not aware of the opportunities in marine sciences, engineering, technology that lay at their shoreside.

We propose an expedition to explore this unique estuary. We hope that our "Peconic Bay PlayLab" will be a place where people will get hands on with technology, using tinker/Maker approaches to show that mental currency can make things happen. As a semi-rural community with limited economic strength, often we find this has been a mental barrier to inspired thinking. We believe it is time to look at the amazing resources we have.

Expedition Goals:
-Build an OpenROV vehicle with a mix of students and interested community members.

Using this platform-
-Document Water quality- nitrogen levels, algal blooms, salinity, temperature, etc
-Explore and record the ecosystems developing around the oyster farm cages at several farms in the estuary.
-Coordinate with other projects such as eelgrass restoration efforts to document and evaluate without damaging fragile systems.
-Build open-source Marine Observation Buoys using off-the shelf parts, deployed by individuals to create a dynamic dashboard of the bay. Think Weather Underground, underwater!

The PLayLab will utilize our waterfront oyster farm HQ and Market as a work(play)space. Our dock and protected area will provide an excellent testing ground for our studies.

We propose to nourish the mind as well as the body!

More From The Nature Conservancy:

The Peconic Estuary exhibits a rich mosaic of coastal and underwater habitats that support diverse communities and 140 globally and locally rare species. The distinctive ecology of the Peconic Estuary can be attributed to its unique fresh groundwater source and the restriction of water flow out of the estuary by Shelter Island.

The Peconic Estuary and its watershed have been identified as one of The Nature Conservancy’s “Last Great Places” in the western hemisphere. Over 90 separate areas have been designated as significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats by the New York State Department of State. The estuary provides feeding habitat as well as spawning and nursery grounds to a wide variety of aquatic and terrestrial species.

Shellfish, such as bay scallops and hard clams, and fish, such as bay anchovies, Atlantic silversides, summer flounders and weakfish, are among the many aquatic species that utilize the Peconic Estuary.

Meadows of eelgrass, found along the edges of the eastern end of the estuary establish one of the most important underwater habitats within the Peconic. These meadows provide food and shelter for many marine organisms and are an important component of the nutrient cycle.


On the large scale, the Peconic watershed is an interconnected gradient of terrestrial, freshwater and marine systems that support and enhance biodiversity on Long Island. Over 50% of the uplands and shoreline surrounding the Peconic Estuary are developed or under cultivation. The Nature Conservancy aims to conserve the diversity of plants, fish and wildlife within the Peconic Estuary.


Very nice movie. Welcome!!

This is great idea for a backyard laboratory! I know several oyster farms up in Puget Sound on the West Coast which might follow by your example. Looking forward to following along!

I'd love to see your featured video, but it looks the privacy settings need to be adjusted on vimeo. Thoughts?

Thanks for checking out our project! I am so happy to be able to open up this kind of opportunity to the curious minds in our area. Our build is underway (slowly but surely as our "workshop" turns back to a cafe/market all too early!) Erika- I am inspired by your Girls Underwater Camp. We have at least one young lady on our build team who has expressed some interest in pursuing engineering. She was thrilled to hear that you are following our project.

great project! are you guys in touch with Bren Smith from ?