Arizona Technology And Innovation: Underwater Robotics Competition

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Thanks to a grant from the Maricopa County Industrial Development Authority, the First Annual Regional SeaPerch Underwater Robotics Competition was held over the weekend. The competition took place at the Chandler High School Aquatics Center, featuring 25 underwater robotic teams from Maricopa County hoping to earn a spot in the SeaPerch International Competition in Boston in May. Bill Badger, the lead of the local competition, will tell us more, along with Madeline Badger, one of the competitors.

Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona technology and innovation looks at a regional Sea Perch Underwater Robotics competition held over the weekend, and at chandler high school aquatics center funded by a grant from the Maricopa County industrial development authority. Here with more is Bill Badger, who manages the local robotics competition along with Madeline Badger, a member of the winning team, the Water Ninjas. Good to have you both here, thanks for joining us.

Bill Badger: Thank you for having us here.

Ted Simons: This Sea Perch Underwater Robotics, what are we talking about?

Bill Badger: Well, it's a competition that you know, first of all starts out with people building underwater robots, so it's drones that have to go under water and go through an obstacle course, as well as be able to pick up pipes and put them down, but it is an underwater drone.

Ted Simons: And the competition is, you must build a remotely operated drone.

Bill Badger: Yep, you got it. And it's an example that we have right here.

Ted Simons: And we have an example right here. What are we looking at there?

Madeline Badger: There are three motors on the robot, and these two in the back, control going forward and backwards, as well as left and right, and we have our control box here.

Ted Simons: Ok.

Madeline Badger: And you know, it spins, and this is for going up and down, one of these buttons up here goes up and one down.

Ted Simons: Let me move this like this, make those rotors. There is that one, all right. And then let's see if we can get these two back here. There we go. My goodness. So what gets you involved in stuff like this?

Madeline Badger: I just really like making the robots and controlling them, and it interests me to no end watching the pieces fit together perfectly.

Ted Simons: And this particular piece of thing, what did, what went to the obstacle course and everything?

Madeline Badger: Yeah. The arm over here, allows it to pick up the ropes for the pipes and place them in a different part of the water, and then the robots' design is small enough to go through the hoops.

Bill Badger: An 18-inch hoop, is what you have got, and you have 2.5 minutes to make it through five hoops, which are at different angles and levels, and then you have to surface, and then come back through those same five hoops. And I believe the winning time, for you, was one minute and 37 seconds.

Ted Simons: So it zoomed along pretty well?

Madeline Badger: Yes, pretty fast.

Ted Simons: Did you have a chance to test it beforehand? You were not surprised now, were you?

Madeline Badger: No, we had a couple of weeks, actually, to test it, so we had the hoops in the water, and we were just running through it, and just circuits with the teams.

Ted Simons: 25 teams competed?

Bill Badger: 20.

Ted Simons: 20 teams competed. And now, the winning team, what happened?

Bill Badger: The winning team gets to go to LSU, for the national competition, where there is over, I believe, over 100 teams will be there, and they come from all over the country. And understand, these are high school, middle school, and as well as elementary school kids.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, how are the teams made up? Is it like an all-star crew, do you recruit people?

Bill Badger: No, it actually -- the foundation, basically, meets every Saturday, and the objective of our foundation is to have kids introduced to all of the stem type of activities, science, technology, engineering, and math. And part of that is building the underwater robots. You have to learn about density, buoyancy, negative buoyancy and positive buoyancy and fluid dynamics, and you learn about how to waterproof the engines, how to do a circuit board that you have here. And it's those things that we really teach them. So, we take our kids, and they start at, you know, fourth, fifth grade and go up to middle school, and we have another program for the high school kids.

Ted Simons: These things that he was talking about, you did learn these things, correct? This makes sense to you? I have no idea what he's talking about but you do, don't you?

Madeline Badger: We had to learn that because otherwise if we didn't our robot wouldn't have worked. The buoyancy is important.

Ted Simons: Yeah. It's not just putting A into B, you have to reason your way through it.

Madeline Badger: The floaties that you can see on these, we had to move those because up here it was just two huge pieces, but the robot was -- it was way too positively buoyant, and then the motor wouldn't let you go down.

Ted Simons: And they do have little floaties on them.

Madeline Badger: So we just moved them around and, you know, got rid of some of them.

Bill Badger: So part of the competition, as well as yeah, it's great to have the robot and great to be able to play with those, but it also involves a presentation. So they have to go before is a panel of judges, and explain just what I talked about, the density comments, and the buoyancy, and the principles and all of those things.

Ted Simons: Did you have to present, as well?

Madeline Badger: Yes. My team did. It was probably harder to present because it's a little intimidating going in front of this panel, who is sitting there with the sheets of paper, and they are like present for us, so we just want to do perfectly but that does not always happen.

Ted Simons: For them, you said, this does this and that does that and when I flick the switch, something else happens?

Madeline Badger: And we explained some of the principles for them.

Ted Simons: Ok. And I would imagine, dealing in a competitive environment, in a challenging environment, that's also a play here, as well?

Bill Badger: Oh, yeah. Very much so. And because they have to -- again, you have 20 teams, and what it is, you have three events, and basically, we use a mathematical formula for the events, so everything is fair. It's all black and white, and either you are going to win or lose.

Ted Simons: Yeah, so next off is New Orleans?

Bill Badger: Baton Rouge, and LSU, and the kids will fly out there. There is two teams that qualified out of the 20, and to compete in the nationals.

Ted Simons: Will the Water Ninjas compete with this device or something new have to happen?

Madeline Badger: We will probably change the robot for the LSU competition because there is a couple of obstacles, the course is one of them, but there is also another thing that we have to do different than the pickup that we had at the regional competitions.

Ted Simons: And now, what do you plan on doing? What's your future hold for you?

Madeline Badger: Well, I want to be an engineer when I'm older.

Ted Simons: I can imagine. So this was fun for you?

Madeline Badger: Yeah. I love robotics.

Ted Simons: And this, I would imagine, for all the kids, you don't just wander into here because you have got nothing else better to do.

Bill Badger: These kids work hard. Just to build these things, and like I said, we throw, you know, think about it, we have sixth graders, and we hand them a sodering gun, and we say, go and build this circuit board, and build this box and we'll help them out when they get stuck but pretty much, they do it, it's the -- the kids are doing all the work, and that includes cutting the BBC's and drilling the holes and all those things.

Ted Simons: And congratulations, good luck in Louisiana, and thank you both, I imagine her father is proud of her, isn't he?

Bill Badger: Oh, yeah.

Ted Simons: Yeah. Sounds good, thank you for being here.

Madeline Badger: Thanks for having us.

Bill Badger:SeaPerch International Competition Competitor Lead of the Local Competition, Madeline Badger: SeaPerch International Competition Competitor

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