By JULIE HERRMANN
Kodiak students built remotely operated underwater vehicles and spent a couple of hours Wednesday operating them through a series of tasks at the Kodiak Community Pool.
Educators from the Prince William Sound Science Center regularly teach about ROVs in Cordova, and the center had brought ROVs to Kodiak students several years ago.
Jane Eisemann connected with PWSSC’s new staff members at the Tsunami Bowl, an ocean science competition, this year, and with some help from funding sources, was able to bring the ROVs to Kodiak again.
Eisemann said she hopes her students learned more about engineering, planning a project, teamwork and potential career opportunities from the week with the ROVs.
“I want them to see if this turns them on, wait until you get to the big stuff!” Eisemann said. “This is entry-level, get them excited about oceanography, engineering and careers and learning about oil spill issues.”
On Monday and Tuesday, about 20 students in the Kodiak Island Borough School District’s robotics classes and marine science and technology class along with a few middle school students learned about oil and oil spill response and also built the ROVs on Tuesday, constructing the small vehicles out of PVC pipe.
They attached three bilge pump motors to each vehicle with electrical tape to propel the vehicle and attached rubber foam with zip ties and small lead fishing weights with more electrical tape to achieve neutral buoyancy.
Then, the students gave names to their vehicle. Some of them, such as “The Shopping Cart” and “The Dog Sled,” were aptly named according to their design.
Then, it was into the water with the little vehicles, which were attached with a wire to a control box with toggle switches and a large battery.
Each student took turns running the vehicle through challenges that included maneuvering the vehicle through a large hoop, setting the vehicle down on a landing pad at the bottom of the pool, picking up a small ring and depositing it on a hook, and pushing a floating beach ball to the edge of the pool.
All of the activities were designed to simulate how a ROV might operate during an oil spill response, such as delivering equipment to underwater workstations or responding to an oil patch on the surface.
“(An oil company) has contracted your company to build an ROV and then use it to locate, sample and identify ice-trapped oil, and help with response operations,” read the challenge sheet.
All of the teams completed each task in the challenge and then spent time operating each other’s ROVs and operating an ROV while sitting with their back to the pool listening to commands by their teammates.
“I learned a lot about remote operated vehicles and what they do in oil spills and for marine research,” said middle school student Hanna Clary.
The hardest part, she said, was achieving neutral buoyancy through the addition of foam rubber while the easiest part was building the vehicle.
Julie Herrmann is a staff reporter at the Kodiak Daily Mirror. Contact her at 486-3227 ext. 627.