The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

SMU professor Susanne Scholz in the West Bank in 2018.
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Yellow submarine places 14th out of 25 in San Diego Competition

Seahorse III promised to be a winning robot at the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition in San Diego. Things took a turn for the worse, however, when the yellow submarine’s battery died five minutes after the SMU Robotics team put it in the water for its first practice run.

The team pulled the robot out of the water to fix the problem, but ended up pinching a wire in the waterproof seal. The pinch caused the robot to flood with 2 to 3 inches of water.

It was this incident that Nathan Huntoon, team member and SMU Robotics Club founder, says caused their robot to take 14th place instead of a higher spot.

Team members had to take apart Seahorse III, let it dry, and clean it with isopropyl alcohol. Huntoon says the team then put the robot back together and discovered that some parts needed to be repaired. The team missed their second practice run.

More problems arose when the team forgot to make software changes after changing some hardware. Then, Seahorse III would only turn left.

During its last competition, it looked as if the robot was working properly. Huntoon says the robot was on course to locating the pinger, but suddenly stopped and began rotating as if it was “looking for something.” It was then that time ran out for the yellow submarine.

“We never really got caught up [from the initial flooding],” he said.

The SMU Robotics team participated in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI)’s Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition on July 29-August 3. Huntoon describes the competition as “an underwater obstacle course.”

Robots must be able to navigate the course and locate several objects. Each robot that is competing must run by itself. “You have no communication with the robot,” Huntoon said.

The obstacle course is put inside a tank bigger than two football fields. Seahorse III was equipped with sensors, two video cameras, two hydraphones and a compass for the challenge.

AUVSI gave the team a general list of obstacles, but nothing specific, in September of last year. Team members then spent nine months designing and building the robot without the help of any faculty members. Seahorse III had a budget of $30,000.

The robotics team consisted of four electrical engineering graduate students-Huntoon, Chris Pilcher, Andrew Murphy and Mike Buynac-and two freshman computer science majors-John Forrest and Ryan McCord. Huntoon says Forrest and McCord joined the team in January and February after giving lecture to an honors engineering class.

The two freshmen wrote computer code for Seahorse III.

Huntoon feels that their robot would have placed fourth, if not for the problems. He says the team was disappointed with their standing. He hopes the robot can be used in next year’s competition, but says the team needs more members since the four graduate students have graduated. Huntoon’s ideal team would have 6 or 7 undergraduate students and a few graduate students to act as “mentors.”

“This gives engineering undergraduates real design experience,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of labs at SMU, and this is like a giant lab. This [also] is a place where graduate students can experiement.”

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