Remotely Operated Vehicles at RPI


Fifth and sixth graders at Reeths-Puffer Intermediate School learn and use the engineering process to design, build, and test an underwater robot also known as a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) during their explore class. An ROV allows a person to remain in a safe and comfortable environment while the robot works in the hazardous environment below the water's surface. An ROV is used for many different underwater tasks - Underwater exploration & documentation, recoveries, inspections, search and rescue, trenching, cable burial and much more. ROV's became popular with the discovery of the Titanic by Bob Ballard in 1985.


The students are put into groups of 4 to work together as a team. They apply the engineering process and the science concepts of thrust, center of gravity, and buoyancy to design and build their own version of a ROV. They search the Internet for design ideas and then utilize the computer to draw a sketch of their proposed ROV. Next, they manipulate a K-Nex CAD (computer aided design) program to create a virtual rendering of their ROV. Once this is accomplished, they make use of actual K-Nex to build a tangible model of the ROV. Finally, the team takes all 4 of their models and they choose the one or a combination they feel will perform the best during mission testing. After the team ROV is built using PVC tubes, and bilge pumps as motors, the students test and retest their ROV in a small wading pool at school to make improvements.


Once they have perfected their ROV and honed their navigation skills, the teams travel to Norton Pines Athletic Club's pool to put their ROV design to the ultimate test. Using only a video screen, the teams maneuver their ROVs equipped with video cameras through simulated NOAA missions. Their ROVs have two underwater missions to complete to help researchers from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) collect information on one of the worst invasive species in the Great Lakes, the Quagga Mussel. The mussels are causing many problems in the great lakes. However, the disruption of the food chain is our major concern. The students are raising salmon in our classroom and the destruction of the food chain could mean the end of our salmon.