Students from the Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School visited the U of M to partake in an underwater robot trial and demonstration led by Assistant Professor Junaed Sattar and his Interactive Robotics and Vision Laboratory (IRV Lab) research team. The aspiring robotics engineers got a first-hand glimpse of the research team’s latest work with autonomous underwater vehicles, or AUVs, at the RecWell Center.
Sattar opened up his robotics trials to the group of eight-graders so they could gain insight into their own underwater vehicle projects. They are pursuing their projects through the SeaPerch program, a STEM-based initiative intended to equip teachers and students with the resources they need to build and operate their own underwater robots.
“I find this amazing that a bunch of eighth-graders are asking questions about underwater visual perception and situational awareness,” said Sattar. “Programs like SeaPerch, which are exposing science and engineering challenges in underwater robotics to middle-schoolers, get students thinking about solutions early in their academic lives.”
An expert in underwater robotics and the director of the IRV Lab, Sattar walked the students through the typical steps involved with preparing, launching, and ultimately operating an AUV. He demonstrated the process with the IRV Lab’s latest arrival, Minnebot, which is an Aqua class of amphibious legged robot that has been assisting Sattar’s team in underwater exploration of lakes around Minnesota.
“Schools open to scientific exploration and innovation contribute immensely towards the expansion of STEM education,” Sattar said. “It helps us, too, to talk about the kind of work we do at the U, and why this is important in the greater scheme of things.”
The Heilicher students plan to build three underwater robots. Though not autonomous, like Minnebot, they will be using SeaPerch’s detailed guidelines to build underwater remotely operated vehicles, or ROVs. They started their initial concept and design phase back in September and are now building their ROVs with plans to deploy them early next year.
The future roboticists even extended an invitation to Sattar and his team to join them on the occasion of the launch to observe the results of their months of hard work. From there, the Heilicher robotics team has the opportunity to join other SeaPerch robotics teams from around the world in pursuing the SeaPerch Challenge, an annual event where teams compete in a number of challenges meant to show their in-depth knowledge of building and operating their robots.