“The great thing about these new mechanisms is that they are simple, so they should be extremely reliable,” said Frank.

Laura Roty, a mechanical team member who just completed her first year studying engineering robotics, took the lead on designing the new marker dropper, a device that releases small metal balls, similar to pinballs, into designated areas around the competition’s underwater obstacle course. 

“When I started designing the new marker dropper, I was still fairly new to CAD so I designed a cardboard prototype first,” Roty said. “I recycled the core of a roll of paper towel and poked a couple of pencil holes to imitate the pistons and added some crumpled paper to act as the ball bearings.”

She then brought her vision to life using SolidWorks and 3D printing. With the help of teammates and mentors, the dropper had a perfect first trial run. 

“This project embodied a lot of meticulous work but it was all so worth it,” Roty said.

Isabella Bushroe, who just completed her second year studying mechanical engineering systems, designed and developed the new torpedo launcher that will mount to the top of the AUV as part of her role on the mechanical team. 

“We scrapped last year’s design and I started from scratch,” Bushroe said. “I got a lot of one-on-one help from Dr. Frank over Zoom, and also worked closely with Fredi, who tested the torpedo launcher in his bathtub.”

Sam Ehrle, the electrical team lead who just completed her second year studying robotics and electrical systems engineering, worked on circuit boards for a pneumatic system. The new pneumatics hull will allow the new AUV to use air to power the torpedo launcher, marker dropper and grabber. Last year’s AUV had one main hull, but the new one features several smaller hulls, allowing members to work on their own parts independently and in parallel with each other. This design is more modular and allows for easier disassembly so individual pieces can be removed and reused for future models.

“The team pushed the boundaries of their designs, even with the news that the live event was canceled, and that takes a lot of courage,” Frank said.

In the process of altering plans, adjusting goals and recalibrating workflow, the team learned to adapt, push forward and make the best of unexpected circumstances.

“Some of the excitement is gone this year, but it is still a great learning opportunity,” Lajvardi said, “and it will make us better for next year.”

Sona Patel Srinarayana

Sr communications specialist, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts