New STEM Course Deploys ROVs in Campus Lake

Biology, Engineering, Environmental Science & Technology (BEEST) Research Methods is one of Indian Springs’ newest STEM electives taught by Dr. Jeffrey Sides ’91. Below, Dr. Sides describes an exciting project students in the course are currently undertaking.

“The goal of the project is to have each three-member student group design and build a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) that can be used to carry out a real-world scientific mission in the Indian Springs lake. The mission is to deploy electronic temperature loggers in the deepest part of the lake (approximately 15 feet deep) using the student-designed ROVs, leave the data loggers there for several days, and then retrieve them to collect the temperature data. I deployed three structures in the lake that sit on the lake bed, each with a large metal hook extending up from it. The challenge is for the student ROVs to carry a waterproof and pressure-proof data logger capsule down to these submerged structures and then catch the lanyard of their capsule on the hook so it can be left in place for several days.

We have been working on this project for about three weeks now. Apart from the 3D design work done using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 software, all of the ROV construction work has been done in the Indian Springs Makerspace. Students have learned how to safely use shop power tools like the drill press, the bandsaw, hand drills, soldering irons, and heat guns to build their ROVs from the ground up. They have had significant experience wiring the analog controllers and tethers for these ROVs by soldering and crimping connections and waterproofing them using heat shrink tubing and hot glue. Using their skills in Fusion 360, students designed and 3D printed some custom components for their ROVs, including a mount to carry the underwater video camera they use to navigate in the lake and carry out their missions, as well as an attachment to deliver and install the data logger payload. Several “sea trials” have been carried out in the lake as students fine-tuned the buoyancy and balance of their ROVs.

My overall goal for the project (and for the class as a whole) is to spark excitement in my students about the fascinating possibilities for scientific research and the methods scientists use to carry out that research. Even though the ROV missions are not quite complete, I’d say the project has been a great success.”
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