MICDS Electronics and Robotics students designed and built underwater robots

Student-Designed Bots Take to the Pool

Students in Mr. Menghini’s Electronics and Robotics class created robots to explore a new environment: underwater. First, they divided into teams and created obstacles and missions. Then, each team used low-cost, easily accessible parts, like PVC pipes and pool noodles, to design and construct underwater vehicles that could navigate their own challenge and those created by other teams.

While their classroom lab has a sink, there’s nothing better than getting into a large body of water to see how the bots would perform. Thankfully, we’ve got the Steward Family Aquatic Center. After three weeks of design, building, testing and tweaking, the teams were finally ready to compete. They descended upon the pool (with a lifeguard on hand, of course) and launched their bots. Challenges ranged from collecting and pushing a water polo ball into a net to maneuvering through hurdles and racing against other bots.

Kenny Townsend ’19 said, “It’s more fun than I anticipated because Mr. Menghini gives us the creativity to do anything we want and adapt the robots. As we run into a challenge, we can think up the wildest solution and try it.” His teammate Lucas McCarty ’21 agreed. “Our model wouldn’t sink or float, so we bent it. The ability to solve problems like that has been fun. We worked through struggles.”

Students gathered poolside to cheer on their bots and offer suggestions to drivers. Caroline Abel ’19 smiled and shook her head. “It always turns into Battle Bots. Its constant with every project.” It was clear the students had enjoyed both the process and the competition at the end.

Mr. Menghini explained that the goal of the project was not to win in the pool, it was to learn from the process. He said, “Ultimately I don’t grade on the success or failure of the project; I grade them on their process of developing the robots which is encapsulated in their engineering notebooks.”

Check out our video for a bot’s view of the pool and the students of Electronics and Robotics: