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Brooks DeBartolo HS robotics team goes global, underwater with remotely operated vehicle

Hillsborough County

TEMPLE TERRACE, Fla. (WFLA) – The Brooks DeBartolo robotics team is going global, even though they’re only traveling to Tennessee.

Phoenix Robotics will travel to compete against some of the best teams in the world at the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center’s international remotely operated vehicle, or ROV, competition.

The team has modified a vehicle, appropriately called “Phoenix,” from previous years to compete in the 2019 MATE competition this month.

Robotics teams from across the nation and countries like Egypt, Russia and Canada will work hard to score the most points in various underwater tasks with their own ROVs.

Phoenix Robotics presents itself as a business and recent graduate Paul Fernandez is the CEO. He explained what exactly the competition will entail.

“So there are three main components to the task they actually want us to do. Preserving history in terms of recovering Civil War-era cannons, maintaining healthy waterways, so taking a look at PH and phosphate levels of the actual water to make sure the water quality is proper, and then also looking at the foundation at the dam, because the Boone Dam is significant in that area,” he said. 

Phoenix Robotics works on perfect various tasks at a pool in Temple Terrace for 6 hours every week day. They practice tasks such as picking up pipes with the ROV, as well as dropping things and navigating around the pool.

The navigation part is tricky, as competition rules state the team can’t view the ROV from the pool.

Instead, the team controls the vehicle from behind-the-scenes, looking at monitors showing live pictures from cameras attached to the vehicle. The ROV is moved with a Playstation 2 controller.

Team members say the time commitment has been tough, especially during the school year, but they are making advancements to the ROV before the competition.

One advancement is 3-D printing parts for the ROV.

“We moved towards 3-D printing because we want to kind of be more conservative with looking out for the environment as well,” Fernandez said.

“We actually have PLA shrouds, PLA being a 3-D printed filament that is made from corn. So it has eco-friendly roots.”

The team also updated their buoyancy system for this year’s tasks.

“One of the tasks this year also takes us to grab grout, or simulated grout, so we’re supposed to be filling in a specific portion of the dam with grout that was damaged,” Fernandez said.

“It’s simulated by Mexican beach pebbles, which are kind of heavy, and we need to fill a red plastic cup, and it adds a considerable amount of weight to our ROV. That changes our buoyancy, so that causes us to have something such as this system to compensate for that.”

The team told News Channel 8 that it’s not about the money, which would go right back to financing the team’s projects, but resume building and networking for future jobs.

We’ve been doing this for about 8 years now I wanna say, so it’s been awhile, it’s been an adventure,” said Fernandez.

Phoenix Robotics competes from June 20-22. Portions of the competition can be watched live on MATE’s website and you can follow News Channel 8’s Daisy Ruth on Facebook for more. 

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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