Wisconsin high school team wins international robot contest

An underwater robot built by Wisconsin high school students won the top award in the Ranger Class at the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center’s international underwater robotics competition June 21-23 in Orlando, Fla.

After taking top honors in the 2012 Wisconsin ROV (remotely operated vehicle) Competition in March hosted at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Discovery World, the robotics team earned a spot in the international contest. Students from Oostburg and Ozaukee high schools combined forces for the award-winning team.

The Wisconsin ROV Competition was developed by the UWM Office of WATER Education Outreach, School of Continuing Education and School of Freshwater Sciences. Discovery World and the Milwaukee Water Council are primary partners in the event.

Key UWM contributors include Thomas Consi, assistant professor in the School of Freshwater Sciences and the Department of Mechanical Engineering, College of Engineering & Applied Science, and Caroline Joyce, director of the Office of WATER Education Outreach.

In the MATE competition, more than 50 teams representing a dozen countries compete in a simulated mission representing real-world situations. In this year’s competition, teams were challenged to form a ROV company to survey and repair a sunken ship that was leaking oil from its fuel tanks.

Twelve students from Oostburg and Ozaukee high schools formed a company complete with business, R&D, accounting and engineering departments. Eric Hartnett, Ozaukee High School student and company CEO, led the team throughout the process and won an individual award at the competition for a standout performance during the team’s engineering presentation.

In addition to having the ROV complete a series of underwater tasks in a pool, teams also were scored on their engineering presentation to a panel of scientists and a technical report outlining specifics about the company and the decisions factoring into ROV design rationale.

Students could not watch the ROV from the side of the pool. Instead, eight waterproof cameras aboard the ROV transmitted video feeds that were displayed on two multiplex LCD TV monitors.

The ROV included several student-built tools, including a robotic gripper, liquid extraction pump and probe, depth sensor, digital compass and gyroscope.

Alex Wynveen, a senior at Oostburg High School, says, “Being part of the team has helped me define what I would like to study in the future, as well as helping build great communication and problem-solving skills. Being able to socialize as well as witness the creativity of the ROVs is a great experience that cannot be reproduced.”

He adds, “The ROV project is such an amazing adventure, filled with valuable learning experiences that sadly many students will never have the chance to encounter through regular school programs.”

Team mentors included Terry Hendrikse, Oostburg High School science teacher; Eric Meinnert, Ozaukee High School science teacher; Randy Vogt; senior electrical engineer at Pemco; Terry Browne, Collins Engineers Inc., and Dustin Richter, UW-Madison student.

Student team members from Oostburg High School were Wynveen and fellow senior Seth Opgenorth.

Student team members from Ozaukee High School were seniors Carissa Conine, Sara Crynock, Brooke Dieringer, Eric Hartnett, Amanda Nordby, Rose Paulus and Marissa Thill; junior Kaelyn Griffin; and freshmen Evan Lallensack and Zach Vogt.


(CONTACT: Thomas Consi, 414-382-1739 or consi@uwm.edu. Photos are available through Beth Stafford, bstaff@uwm.edu.)