The mission of Jesuit Robotics is to provide team members with life skills and real world exposure to STEM skills. The MATE competition provides an excellent framework for this, challenging team members on multiple fronts: design and engineering, CAD, manufacturing, electronics, programming, program management, operations, technical writing, graphic design, presentation, marketing, safety, and teamwork.
Our lab is equipped with an excellent set of tools for students to convert their ideas into reality. We use a benchtop Taig computer controlled (CNC) mill that can produce complex parts from CAD models using modern manufacturing techniques. We acquire and utilize classic machine shop skills to produce precise features, such as O-ring grooves which sometimes require tolerances of +/-0.001 inch. In addition, we also use a plethora of shop tools including a scroll saw, drill presses, band saws, grinding wheels, belt sanders and a variety of hand tools.
The design of a vehicle and accessories starts with brainstorming on the whiteboard, where team members discuss design options with function and manufacturing in mind. Designs are evaluated by weighing factors such as size, weight, effectiveness, cost, complexity, ease of manufacturing, safety, and serviceability. Proof of concept designs are mocked up with PVC parts and wood cutouts to create physical models, and different ideas are shared, debated, and modified until a favored concept emerges. From there, team members begin rendering each component of the final design using SolidWorks CAD software.
Our ROVs require onboard power conversion, communications, and multiple cameras. The control system consists of a computer at the topside control station sending commands to the ROV via the tether. Onboard the ROV, there are typically multiple embedded microcontrollers, Ethernet switches, sensors, motors, servos, and lighting. Telemetry and video are sent back up through the tether for display on the topside computer. Team members design the overall system, including developing schematics and building custom printed circuit boards, using EAGLE, an electrical CAD software tool. Our lab is equipped with an oscilloscope for signal analysis, a logic analyzer, multimeters, and a solder station with a vent hood for safety.
Our ROV control systems utilize software on the topside computer (written in C++ using the Qt IDE) to interpret joystick movements, display sensor data, and control the ROV using an ethernet cable in the tether. Onboard the ROV, Arduino microcontrollers are programmed by the team to manage vehicle systems. Team members work on the software modules and maintain their code on Github using Git as the source code management software.
Safety is a Jesuit Robotics core value and our highest priority. We believe that all team members have the right to a safe work environment and that all accidents are preventable. Our rigorous training, safety procedures, and safety protocols allow us to avoid accidents preemptively. Team members are trained for safe lab and workshop practices and use safety glasses and other personal protection mandated and appropriate for each task. Safety protocols are employed in the operation of shop equipment and during ROV operations (moving, lifting, power on, launch and recovery). We are proud to have won the “Safety Conscious” award at the 2013 MATE competition.
Administering a complex program with a hard deadline requires structured program management. Team members oversee the development of the ROV systems, technical report, sales presentation, and marketing poster to critical deadlines using Gantt charts and critical path analysis. Each workday begins with a coordination meeting led by the Team Captain to define goals for that day. Responsibilities are delegated to the leads of each functional department, who in turn guide their teams in the development of components and deliverables. Resources such as the CNC mill and 3D printer are managed with production schedules arranged by component priority. Our season typically starts at the beginning of November and runs nearly every weekend through the competition in June.
The MATE missions are complex, with numerous tasks, operating rules, and strict time constraints for set up, mission execution, and tear down. Once the ROV and associated systems are developed and manufactured, the team spends considerable hours at the pool rehearsing procedures and contingencies. Every team member has a clear role during the mission to ensure that the team is well prepared for the competition.
In the real world, creation of any product is of no use if one cannot explain, market, and provide technical documentation to support it. Scoring at the MATE competition places heavy emphasis on these entrepreneurial skills. Each year our team produces a 25-page technical report detailing the ROV and our organization, as well as a tradeshow-style marketing display targeted to a non-technical audience (such as management or buyers). We also deliver a sales presentation to a panel of industry professionals promoting our technology and company. Media outreach is another requirement of the competition, and we produce press releases and interact with the local media to advertise our team. Jesuit Robotics won first place honors for technical documentation at the MATE competition in 2016, and for marketing display in 2012, 2014, and 2016. Our award winning marketing display posters have also been published in the Journal of Ocean Technology.
Recent advancements in 3D printing allow for the manufacture of specialized parts that would be impractical to produce any other way. Our team uses a MakerBot Replicator 2X and an Ultimaker 2+, which gives members the capability to design more complex, specialized parts to fit our specific needs. This process is also much faster than standard manufacturing and does not require constant monitoring. We use our printer to create intricate parts such as electronic organizers, oddly shaped 3D geometry, camera mounts, or thruster directors.