Your Own Underwater Robot?
Doug Levin is the Associate Director for the Center for
Environment and Society at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland,
and is an expert in underwater exploration technology, as well as
designing fun programs that teach complex engineering concepts.
I briefly mentioned Aquabotz in my introductory post. The Aquabotz STEM (Science, Technology, Math and Engineering) program allows groups of students to work poolside to design, build, and launch a working underwater robot in a little more than an hour. I’ve done this with classes down to the 7th grade, and have never had a student group fail in this project in the 10 years I’ve been offering it. So, how did I come up with this idea to have students build their own robots?
I’d been working in the ocean exploration field since the 80s and became enamored with the use of Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to explore underwater. By definition, an ROV is connected to the surface by a cable that we call a “tether.” The early ROVs were prohibitively expensive for individuals, but I looked at them and thought, “How hard would it be to make one myself?” So, armed with knowledge of electricity garnered from my life-long hobby of model train building, and with bathtub silicone sealant, PVC pipes, and cable ties, I set out to build a working underwater robot for $150.