July 25, 2013
By Emily McKellar, MSJC student and Public Information & Marketing intern
A team of local engineering students will compete in an international robotic submarine competition this week with their creation “Nautilus I.”
The majority of the ten participants involved are Mt. San Jacinto College students from Menifee, Murrieta, and Hemet. They had less than a year to design and build a fully autonomous submarine that will participate in the 16th annual Robosub Competition held in San Diego.
Nautilus I will compete against 31 other high schools, universities, and other institutions from around the world. Last year’s first place winners were from Cornell University.
Team leader Richard Santana found out about the competition only six months ago, which left he and his team only five months to accomplish what other competitors have spent a year working on.
“This is a very expensive and really hard project,” said Santana, 24. “There’s no time to perfect everything, and there’s way more time constraints than we imagined.”
Robosub requires that the submarine function completely unmanned, without a controller or driver. It must go through various obstacles, pick up and drop off objects, see underwater, shoot torpedoes, and go through gates. It’s even required to retrieve a pizza box from the bottom of a 40-feet deep pool.
“The crazy part is that we won’t know what the field will look like until we get there,” said Santana.
He and his team have had to do almost everything themselves to meet these requirements. They had to learn how to weld, program a circuit board, paint and waterproof their submarine, and more.
“Most of the parts are industrial and cannot be expected to work underwater, so we’ve had to manufacture a lot under a small deadline,” said Santana.
Several sponsors have helped the team pay for the expensive equipment needed to build their submarine. Perris Union High School District invested in the project when a few of their students were involved, and Santana’s company Gears 2 Robots partially sponsored the team.
The team was able to raise their original goal of $4,000, but by the end of the competition Santana believes they will have spent close to $9,000.
“A lot of money has come from our own pockets,” he said. “But we do what we have to do.”
Santana and his team got involved in this competition because of the unique learning experiences and hands-on training it offers them as engineering students.
“They can’t teach you this in college,” said Santana. “They only teach you the concepts. What we’re doing with this project is way outside the scope of college.”
Santana said that after this competition he and his team are going to prepare for the next one. “I look forward to days where I don’t sleep,” he said.
The competition will be held at the SSC Pacific TRANSDEC in San Diego from July 22-28. This event is made possible through the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.
Back row: Nathan Krafft, Theo Parker, Devin Catron, Richard Santana, Shawn Yeoman
Front row: Tyler Craig, Jovanny Santana, Crystal Covarrubias, Barbae Marquez