Robotics Team enters Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition

Fernando Yates

Not many students would choose to have class on Fridays. Less still would choose to have class on Saturdays. The students that make up San Diego City Robotics choose to have class on Saturdays, and in class they build a robot.

San Diego City Robotics is linked to Engineering 50 in the catalog and has the goal of designing and building a functioning automated submarine to compete in the Navy’s international Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Competition. Since 2007, the class has done just that.

Engineering 50 is broken up in to three sections: A, B, and C. Each section corresponds to a semester and a part of the design process. A is held in the fall and is design. B is in the spring and consist of assembly and testing. Finally, C is held in the summer and makes up the final assembly and competition.

However, to call Engineering 50 a class is not the most accurate description. It is more of a lab than a traditional classroom environment.

“It allows students to be part of a real engineering team,” said Robert Pruitt, advisor to the robotics team, regarding the course.

That mentality could be seen at robotics team meeting on a recent Saturday morning. Some members were busy testing circuits for the sonar system, others were testing the motor controller, and a few were discussing fund-raising options.

For the robotics team, finding sponsors and raising funds is an important objective. While City College does provide money for the entrance fee to the competition, not much is left for building a submarine.

Qualcomm and Lockheed Martin currently donate some components, but some members still purchase components out of pocket.

“I can get reimbursed but I view it as a donation to the club,” said James Haak, the current project manager.

Sometimes a little creativity is used to get parts, such as using pumps instead of traditional motors for propulsion.

Even with a small budget the team does well, taking first place in the presentation portion of the competition last year. Several team members have also been offered jobs and scholarships to universities at the competition.

When asked how possible cuts to summer school would affect the competition, Pruitt said to his students, “I will meet with you guys. Whether they close summer school, we are going to pull this off.”

For more information about San Diego City Robotics visit www.
sdcityrobotics.org.