For the second year in a row, students at Santa Rosa Christian School won the Deep-C/Remote Operated Vehicle Competition at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama April 25 through 27. Hunter McKinnon, a junior, said the idea of the competition was to simulate a mission test with a remotely operated underwater vehicle. He said the pilot was only allowed to see what the ROV's camera could see. McKinnon said, "We had to do different tasks like retrieving oil samples and scanning a shipwreck and identifying where it came from." Steve Archer, mentor with the school and ROV team, said the tasks involved picking up plastic bottles and the shipwreck was a PVC-pipe configuration.
This year, the team blew the competition out of the water according to Archer. He said, "We had a perfect score and finished eight minutes early. The next team was thirty points behind and barely finished." Will Blankenship, a senior this year and ROV pilot said, "There was nothing better we could have done." McKinnon, tether operator, said the rules stipulated they were limited to three motors. Describing other teams present, he said, "Some of the equipment with the same number of motors could not pick up some of the tasks." Archer said their ROV had a 3/8" in diameter, 13" long rod with a rubber tip to manipulate task objects. He said they used the rod to slide into plastic bottles to pick them up; another team had a scoop and had a hard time retrieving items. Archer also said they spent money on the control system. "We had a proportional control system, meaning it could spin slow or fast." He said a lot of other teams' controls operated by only turning on or off giving them a lot of jerky motion.
McKinnon said, "We built props and practiced in a pool with harder missions. At the competition all the tasks were closer together."
Kyle Brainerd said baseball scheduling was a problem. "You had to rush to baseball practice after school then ROV." McKinnon echoed Brainerd saying splitting time was difficult. Some schools, he said, had a class just for the competition. Archer said, "Three of the team members play baseball and two of those also had drama practice in preparation for an upcoming play." Blankenship said, "The teachers helped. They made sure our grades were up enough."
Those who are returning are aiming higher for next year. Archer said, "We're looking forward to advancing and more difficult tasks." McKinnon said, "The competition will be more difficult and we only spent $500 on our setup." He said the team will have to perform tasks like identifying the salinity of two different samples of water while the ROV is underwater. Archer also said they will have to retrieve a sample of Jello from a cup, but not the cup itself. He said, "The next level means a more expensive ROV and travel expenses. Right now, we're a big fish in a very small pond. We can't be cocky next year. We better go in scared and go in hard."
The graduating class of Santa Rosa Christian School consists of seven students. McKinnon said, "There are only 40 kids in this high school." Archer said, "It's like moving from intramural to varsity basketball. Itís going to be similar but much tougher." With the need for more money for next year's more challenging event, Archer set up a way for supporters to help fund Santa Rosa Christian School's new ROV team through ttp://www.gofundme.com/santa-rosa-christian-rov.