High School Students from China Learn to Create ROVs at MIT | MIT J-WEL

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High School Students from China Learn to Create ROVs at MIT

2 girls and ROV

Last month, the Edgerton Center at MIT hosted 60 tenth grade students from the Beijing Chenjinglun School in Beijing, China, for a workshop on underwater Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). The visit was organized by Pei Zhang, Executive Director of the US China Scitech Education Promotion Association and led by Edgerton Center instructors Ed Moriarty ’76  and Cheetiri Smith ’14 with the support of volunteers and translators.

Moriarty explained the goal of the event:

"The goal here is just to make underwater vehicles. Mostly it’s about design, and you’ll see every one of these [ROVs] looks very different. They all use the same basic parts. Our first day is about mass manufacturing, learning how to get good at something, and they break into a few mini different teams. One group makes all the thrusters with the propellers, one makes all the tethers, and one makes all the controllers. One makes all the wire harnesses that go to the motors, then we synthesize so that the wire harnesses then get connected to the motors.”  

Working in teams of three, the students spent over 20 hours building and designing the ROVs from scratch. Bethany Moore, a freshman at MIT and member of the Edgerton Center Marine Robotics Team, assisted with the event. She described the creation process: 

"We started [the kids] with some activities to help them understand how to build with PVC, learning about how simplicity is important in designs, because if they’re not simple they’ll break. Then we let them get to work. They used PVC, foam, compressed PVC and motors, and they're able to drive through the water. They didn’t have one goal; it was a free-for-all, and they could do whatever they wanted. So some are designed to go really fast, some designed to carry cameras. A lot of them look really cool; the kids did a really good job of making them look interesting. We have a star ship enterprise; we've got a star destroyer, so they’re very creative and it was a lot of fun."

The students explained that it was their first time making anything like the ROVs, and that they had learned a lot from the camp, including the importance of teamwork. Harry (his English name), 15, said that his team's main difficulty was figuring out how to get their ROV to maintain proper balance because it sometimes flipped over in the water.

Some teams added LED lights to their ROVs; when asked what the lights were for, one student had a simple explanation: “To look good.” Read more.

Check out the video below to see the students build and race their creations! 


US-China Scitech at MIT February 2018 from Jonathan Dietz on Vimeo.