Tag Archives: ROV

6/29/16 A Trip to TX, part 2

By this time, we were well on our way to eating ourselves through Texas. There were a number of restaurants near the hotel, or a short drive away, and we decided we’d get stuff to eat that we wouldn’t normally get at home. Besides smoky Texas BBQ, we had excellent Japanese Ramen (the real stuff), wonderful Thai, and discovered an eclectic little coffee shop that we fell in love with. We were having a great time! Jamie was working, attending meetings, and stressing. I don’t blame him! cb of course, was the host with the most.

The competition for the ROVs was in full swing. We wouldn’t see Jamie until much later in the evening, so Jim, cb, and I took a tour through Downtown Houston to the Museum of Natural Science. We went into a butterfly enclosure, scoped out the fabulous Gem Vault, and, since I was reading “Antony and Cleopatra”, marveled at the Egyptian exhibit.

This is a sculpture made from gemstone that struck me. If I remember correctly, the lower jaw is a separate piece and the entire sculpture weighs about 6.5 pounds:


The next day, we were finally allowed in to view the competition. This was held at the Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab. This pool, 40 feet deep, has a mock up of the space station in it. Astronauts use this Lab to practice doing tasks while weightless. It was an incredible honor to be there. We had to have ID and badges checked (we sent in for our security clearances a month prior), and had to be inspected by K9 units, who sniffed all of our belongings, and anything we were bringing in to the NBL. Security was tight!

Here is a look inside:


(It’s OK, they said we could take pictures)


(We were seated down at the right, viewing the competition on a screen via underwater cameras.)


(The mockup of the Space Station is visible.)

The team had a number of tasks that the ROV had to complete. They were judged on presentation, tasks accomplished, and safety. One of the tasks was to retrieve an oil sample. Our team (Crusader Robotics) snagged the oil (it was for the highest amount of points) but lost it on the way to the surface. What a blow! Fortunately, we were able to compete the next day as well, and the team’s scores were added together.

Competition done for the day, cb gifted Jamie with a micro drone:


And all the accessories, to boot!

The next day was the final day of competition (we didn’t drop the oil) and the awards banquet. Anxiously, we waited for the awards to be given. Unfortunately, our team did not win. However, none of the guys lost sight of the big picture: almost 700 teams tried out, of which, 69 were chosen to compete. We were one of the lucky ones, competing against other countries such as China, India, Turkey, Egypt, and Indonesia. And our first year in competition, too! It was a great honor to compete. When the scores were compiled, Crusader Robotics had made the top third. Congratulations, team!


(The Edmund Mark 2.5, Crusader Robotics’ ROV, painted in the school’s colors)

Tomorrow: Leaving Texas

Your friend, Liz





6/28/16 A Trip to Texas, part 1

Hi, this is Liz. Before I begin, I’d like to thank everyone for hanging in there while we took a week off for Jamie to compete in the MATE International Robotics competition. I know a lot of people like posting their vacation stuff, hence announcing to the world that they are gone and their houses are unattended, but I’m not like that, being made of more suspicious stuff.

I would secondly like to say that Maggie is sleeping a lot and healing up slowly from her adventures of being boarded. She is due to get the little staple out of her snout on July 5. Maggie was nice enough to lend me her blog so I could tell all of you about our trip.

Where to begin? We flew out a day earlier than the rest of the Robotics team. I personally wasn’t up to the grueling task of awakening at 2 a.m. to be at the airport by 4:15 and then have all of us – teachers, students, family, and fans – trying to get through TSA. So, instead of flying Southwest with the group, we booked our own flight through Spirit and got down there a day early.

Spirit was a cramped flight, but OK.  The pilot had been worried about a storm in Houston, so after we left the gate we actually turned back around, fueled up some more, and then took off. I think the pilot was concerned if we had to circle around the destination airport, so he erred on the side of caution and got more gas. It turned out to be an unnecessary precaution, but I for one was glad he took it. The Spirit staff was really very nice.

We landed and got our gear and rental car, and I texted cb (www.contrafactual.com) to let him know we’d arrived. I was excited to meet cb (Chris) after a two-year friendship on this blog. We agreed to meet at the hotel, and off we went.

BOOM! Into the arms of a pelting down rainstorm. Jamie nervously watched from the back seat as Jim white-knuckled it on the expressway. I was the extra set of eyes. Which was a good thing, because the rain was so hard we could not see 3 inches in front of us. I’m the one who spotted the stopped car with his hazards on, in our lane. We barely avoided an accident, and then suddenly, the rain stopped.

We were all glad for the sudden stoppage in downpour as we then had to ascend a very high, roller-coaster like, bridge. Jim exclaimed that it was the biggest, tallest, longest, bridge he has ever seen. I responded, “Everything’s bigger in Texas,” and, from a driving standpoint, that is true. On an aside, we noticed little differences, like the lack of through streets (at least where we were staying) and how to get from one side of the street to the next, a “U” turn was necessary. The police here in Illinois would absolutely have a field day with that!

We all were starving so we quickly hit up a Sonic and then on to the hotel. cb was waiting for us in the lobby and I recognized him immediately from his blog picture, even though he was missing his “cat beard”. We all headed over to the Hilton Garden Inn to scope out where we would be registering as a team for the competition the next day, figured out the logistics and shuttles, and got something refreshing to drink. Goes without saying, it’s hot in Texas, and humid, too, since we were by the Gulf. Something we Illinois-ans are used to is humidity, but it hadn’t been that hot at home yet, so it did take some getting used to. We hung out for a while, talking, and getting settled in. cb is a really nice person and we had lots to talk about.

cb recommended some places to get good Texas BBQ (“It’s hard to get bad BBQ in Texas”) and we went our separate ways. cb was right; we went to Rudy’s and enjoyed some delicious local flavor.

We all met the next morning and registered for our event. Jamie had a couple of meetings with his team, whom had arrived that morning, and it was discovered that one of the pumps on the ROV (remote operated vehicle) wasn’t working. The mentors of the team (Mr. Mostyn and Mr. Gamboa) made a quick run to the hardware store and the boys were off and tinkering with their ROV, the Edmund Mark 2.5, readying it for the next day.

After that, we had the rest of the day off, and Jamie suggested we head over to the DMC, or DeLorean Motor Company (see cb’s blog, http://www.contrafactual.com/Run-DMC).

The DMC was located on a back road that we first overshot. We got on the right track, and were not sure at first if we could even enter the building. Much to our delight, we were welcomed amongst the beautiful DeLorean autos:


(from left, Jim, Jamie, and Chris)

Of course, no tour would be complete without a pic of the flux capacitor:


Even more surprising, the CEO of DeLorean Motor Company was on hand to give us a personal welcome and took some pictures with Jamie. His name is Stephen Wynne, and he’s very, very, cool. As you can imagine.


This is getting long, so I’ll stop for now. Next blog will be about the competition and the NBL (Neutral Buoyancy Lab) at the Johnson Space Center. Thanks for reading!

Your friend, Liz