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    Collin Meissner shares the Jesuit High pool with the underwater robot he helped create.


    Students Ryan Keneally, Nick Sopwith and Ben Byers, from left, steer their competition robot Saturday at Jesuit High School.


    Ben Byers, 16, switches on the robot's power.

Robot in pool: Jesuit High students are preparing for tech competition

Published: Sunday, Jun. 9, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3B
Last Modified: Monday, Jun. 10, 2013 - 9:03 am

The Jesuit High School Robotics Team on Saturday prepared for the annual Marine Advanced Technology Education competition.

Clad in red T-shirts, the 20 students watched their undersea robot complete practice runs in the school swimming pool.

"This is a real-life representation," team member Nick Sopwith, 17, said of the robot's tasks.

Robots at this year's competition, scheduled June 20-22 in Seattle, are supposed to "service and place a sensor network" in the water that monitors temperatures and climate change, said Sopwith, an incoming senior.

There's no size requirement for the robots in the competition, but teams try to make them as small as possible to better navigate them.

Jesuit's robot is 61 centimeters by 62 centimeters by 48 centimeters (sizes must be in metric units, per competition rules; in more familiar terms, the robot's about 2 feet by 2 feet by 19 inches) and weighs 34.56 kilograms (76.1 pounds).

The team's robot is run by a series of propellers and powered by battery. An Ethernet cable allows the team to control the robot's movement.

The robot cost roughly $8,000 and took six months for the team to build. The teams reuse some parts every year, so the cost for this year's team is about $4,000. Students get the money from the school and through corporate sponsorships.

A few robot parts are prefabricated. However, most of the parts were built by the students.

Twenty-four teams will compete in the college-level division this year. Jesuit is one of only four high schools to take part in the international competition.

In 2011, the team placed first in the competition, edging out college bigwigs Purdue and Georgia Tech. Last year, Jesuit placed third.

Still, robots aren't perfect. Technical difficulties briefly stalled the robot's launch into the water Saturday.

But after the robot was in the pool, the teens huddled around several computer screens, eagerly watching the live video streams from the robot's cameras. A team member carefully maneuvered the machine with a video game joystick.

The competition lasts 25 minutes. "It's a lot of work for 25 minutes," Sopwith said.

Call The Bee's Richard Chang, (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang.

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