K.L.A.S.S. -Explore NJ

May 1 2015
K.L.A.S.S. - "Kids Learning About the Sea through Submersibles" Explore the inshore and coastal waters of NJ to introduce kids to marine life, underwater archaeology, undersea robotics, and underwater video imaging. Then do some investigation into the ongoing undersea recovery of superstorm Sandy. Read background

May 1 2015


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Mission Underway

Here's a view of how the bottom GoPro is mounted. I did not add any skids or bottom protection. When the camera is mounted, the ROV is a bit unwieldy topside, but in the water seems to do nicely.

tonynj 0 comments

A quick update. Mission #1 was planned to happen yesterday (Sunday June 5) though the weather did not cooperate. We got hit with rain and passing thunderstorms, so we had to postpone.

I did want to let you in on some of the mods we did to the ROV while waiting for the boat rental season to start. -we swapped out motor bearings with stainless steel/ceramic replacements. -added a piece of 80/20 extruded aluminum (20mm) on the threaded rod mount to provide an adjustable camera mount -added 2 x alum tslot tracks (1 to each side) to permit quick adjustments to ballast weights. -added 2 x 1.5” schedule 40 PVC boyancy compensation tubes (each provides 6 oz buoyancy) -reworked the tether, by threading the wire pair through the center core of the hollow poly rope.

Why’d we do this? Well, we wanted to be able to run two GoPros on our OpenROV, one facing down, for photogrammetry/sfm, and the other facing forward for some really good quality video. We examined several mount options to add the bottom camera, but we really wanted fore/aft adjustability which came at the price of added weight of the 80/20. To compensate, we came up with the buoyancy tubes rather than learning how to work with the syntactic foam and figuring out how to finish,etc. Each of the end caps are glued on with 2 ton epoxy, and held to the body with simple cable ties. Individually, they each provide 6 ounces of buoyancy to the ROV and seem to hold up well during testing.

The other add on was the tslot tracks for adjustable buoyancy weights. This allows us to trim everything out by moving the ballast weights fore/aft depending on the load out.

Some of us(mostly me) were unhappy with the way we had previously done the tether. The initial plan was to thread the tether inside the poly rope, though it proved very time consuming and not something I could find willing helpers for….As an alternative, we had fastened the wire pair along side the polyrope every 2 meters with heat shrink tubing. But during testing we could see there are many ways in which the “loops” that formed along the tether could be problematic. So….we redid everything over the course of about two weeks, threading about 7 meters a day of the wire pair into the hollow core poly rope. It required a lot of bribery and begging to get helpers…..But, now the tether works flawlessly.

As tested, #1478 should do quite well with a load of two GoPro Cameras. Really can’t wait to see what it can do.

tonynj 0 comments

Greetings all! I've uploaded a video detailing what we plan to explore for the freshwater portion of our mission.

Edit: Here is a link to my Google Earth kmz file.

We don't currently have a boat that is readily available for Spruce Run, so we will be waiting until the boat rental season starts there
after Memorial Day Weekend. Until then we'll be doing some tweaking of our ballasting system to enable us to trim out our ROV easier.

tonynj 1 comment

This is awesome Tony. Can't wait to see the videos!

Preparation Stage

It's been awhile! Time to catch up.

We did have quite a few setbacks in 2015; some project related and some personal. But I think we're back on track for 2016.

Once #1478 was completed, we ran into challenges with erratic functions, such as random disconnects, system restarts, and motor malfunctions. It took some time to work out our issues, as they were from a variety of causes. Unfortunately it wasn't fully resolved until the colder New Jersey weather had set in.

-The main harness probably could have been a few cm longer in the pressure tube, as it pulled snug on the RS232 connector,which in turn caused some of the wires to short right where I soldiered them to the pins. This was causing random power outages, and I temporarily put some insulator between the wires solving the issue. I did a more permanent solution of using liquid electrical tape on all these soldier joints. (Kinda messy, and not my favored approach but it will remind me to build this a bit different next time) If I had to do over, I would have slid some heat shrink tubing on each of the harness wires so I could then cover up all of the pin soldier joints. I would also choose to remove the pins to connect to the wire harness, both soldiering and crimping all pins, then reinserting them into the rs-232 block, this would give me a stronger connection)

-The ROV system would seemingly stop responding after a period of time during testing. Keeping an ssh session open to the Beaglebone Black, I eventually discovered what appeared to be the kernel panicking. I replaced the Beaglebone Black with another older Rev board that I had laying around and the problem disappeared using the same firmware.

-After a short period of time the LED lights would start flashing and intermittently I would lose video. This problem had stumped me and I spend countless hours debugging. After re installing the image, things seemed a bit quiet though returned in our continued testing off season. Once I installed the new firmware version 30.0.3 things have been extremely stable.

We did do a few rounds of tank tests in late August, even though we still had some issues to work out, as I wanted to keep the kids motivated and hands-on with the project. Round one of tank testing was a simple bathtub run without any ballast added, this gave the kids a chance at the controls and solidified the idea of functionality in their heads. Round 2 of tank testing was in a garbage can filled with water, this was to achieve some basic freshwater ballast approximation, along with leak testing.

Since our “tank” testing wasn't very deep, I purchased a vacuum pump as suggested in the Dozuki Guide(http://openrov.dozuki.com/Guide/OpenROV+Operators+Manual/80) and tested the pressure vessel at 18 inHg (Inches of Mercury Vacuum) for 3 minutes, *I was too lazy to hold it any longer, even with assistance. This does leave me thinking that on future builds I will include a test valve for battery tubes and electronics tubes for improved vacuum testing.

I've also noticed some issues with some of the motor windings coming off the armature and getting stuck between the armature and rotor. I used a tiny bit of Silicone Conforming Compound to “glue” the windings back in place. I've also heavily coated the motors with silicone spray to help deter corrosion.

All systems go with OpenROV #1478 -Stay Tuned!

tonynj 1 comment

Great! Excited to see some videos!

It's been almost 6 months since our last update, so I wanted to post some details of what we've accomplished and what still needs to be done for the K.L.A.S.S. project.

-We've built the ROV chassis(this is the plastic frame that everything attaches to.)

-Electric motors have been installed and waterproofed as well as sprayed four coats of silicone spray for protection from water damage.

-Our electronics that are central to controlling the ROV
are assembled. (This includes the BeagleBone Black, the Arduino, as well as the Electronic Speed Controllers and the camera)
(They mount to sub-assembly which then slides into the electronics tube.)

-I've updated the OpenROV code on the BeagleBone Black.

-Battery tubes should be complete soon, as we found that a critical piece was missing for the forward endcap assembly, though the OpenROV team helped us out and is sending us a replacement!

-Seals on the electronics tube and battery tubes are coated with silicone grease.

-We've also decided to secure the tether to hollow braid polypropelene cord. (this will add a bit of bouyancy to counteract the sinking tether,as well and give us a secure line to pull on if we need to forcefully recover the ROV from any undersea hangups. We've done this with 2cm long
pieces of heat shrink tubing placed every 2 meters along the the tether.

-I've been testing different install locations and methods for my GoPro camera, I wish to use that for two purposes:
-Forward facing superwide view of undersea life.
-Downward facing for Structure from Motion 3d reconstruction of the seabed and/or any structures we may find.

Challenges have popped up, both personal and on the project, though I think we are back on track and hope to be conducting sea trials soon. Hopefully it doesn't leak! ;)

tonynj 0 comments

Happy New Year to all!

After wrapping up some other projects for 2014, our OpenROV build is now in full swing for 2015! Our team spent much of New Years Day celebrating and beginning our build. Here's a quick update to show you what we've been working on.

We followed the step-by-step guide here and were able to complete the internal frame assembly as well as the motor assembly.

Since the pinnacle of our expedition will be at the Navesink River, which is salt water, I'm looking at ways to fight corrosion in our motors. There are many methods that OpenROV'ers have come up with to combat the saltwater corrosion, these vary greatly from epoxy to custom sealants. For now, I'm going to stick with simple silicon spray. I've used it often for fishing reels as well as tools to prevent corrosion. I'll use lots of the spray for covering the bearings and windings of the stator, as well as the bell housing. If things don't go as expected, we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

Right now I'm looking for the materials to setup our ROV for Structure from Motion (SfM) and photogrammetry work. OpenROVer Scott W. from NSWWrecks has done some great work here as well as provided an AutoCAD layout of the mounting plate he used.
Another OpenROVer Michael Girard at New England Explorers) has done some great SfM/photogrammetry work recently, I hope we can leverage what they've learned for our uses. We hope to be able to image some underwater structures as well as the sea floor in areas of our expedition.

During the freshwater aspects of our project, we intent to visit one of the largest New Jersey reservoirs. Legend says that when this reservoir was built and the land dammed and flooded, parts of the original buildings and structures still sit at the bottom. It will be interesting to see what we can find and piece together with SfM techniques. During the saltwater portion of our journey at the Navesink River, it will be great to have the ability to image the seafloor as well while we are examining the ecosystem.

tonynj 4 comments

HI Tony, I'm glad to see the build is moving along well and I'm excited to see what you find in the Navesink River. Since things have recently been stirred up by hurricane Sandy, its a great time to explore the area. Not only might you find some interesting history, it will be a great chance to see how the hurricane affected the ecosystem.

I'm glad to see you're interested in SfM/photogrammetry. writing a how to document has been on my to-do list, but with my busy schedule its been on hold. I'd be more than happy to help you get up to speed though. Recently we made a run using a kayak and had great success. We hope to be soon doing our ROV trials, and we're very confident the results will be as good. Feel free to contact me with any questions at sfm@neexplorers.org

I look forward to hearing from you, and helping with the SfM!


Looking good! As far as simple methods to prevent corrosion, I find that packing a whole bunch of silicone grease into the motors, pushing it in into the hole in the forward bearing opening until it spooges out the back to fill it up completely, and heavily coating all the copper channels works quite well in highly saline water. I used this method on a couple of Caribbean expeditions and my motors came away from each trip pretty much ready to roll onto the next!

I hope you have had some good success with these corrosion resistance methods. Do you need permits to dive in the NJ reservoir? Looking forward to hearing more when the season rolls around!

We we went with several coats of silicone spray to cover the coils, we will respray after every mission in saltwater. I looked at loading up with silicone grease, though I did some testing and found that the grease tends to cake a bit when repeatedly exposed to salt water. As far as the the permits, it depends on the reservoir or lake. For the one we are going to, I did not ask about diving, only the ROV use..as long as it is not a commercial expedition, they are fine with the ROV.

Just answering a few basic questions, as well as the unboxing of our ROV.

tonynj 1 comment

Here is my brief video introduction, stay tuned for the next video which is now in progress!!

tonynj 2 comments

I'm curious as to what you might find with the ROV that the storm stirred up from the bottom of the river.

Yep, looking forward to it myself. With all the shifting sands that got moved, maybe we'll stumble on to something unexpected.

Today I'd like to announce some great news for the K.L.A.S.S -Explore NJ expedition!

I had been digging around trying to figure out how to get the needed funding to make this work. Admittedly, I was getting a bit discouraged as it can be a challenge to get sponsorship when you have no documented history of explorations. Lo and behold, I was contacted by David Lang (co-founder of the OpenROV,Inc) with the news that my project received a grant from the Moore Foundation for an OpenROV kit to make this happen!!

I'm incredibly excited and very thankful to David, OpenROV, Inc., and the Moore Foundation for seeing the value in having young people engaged with technology and science.

Now it is time to switch my pre-planning focus to a bit more detail, ensuring I have all the relevant equipment and tools needed to build the OpenRov kit.

I'm working to switch to a video format for all future updates, as a picture is worth a thousand words...a video must be worth more :)

Stay Tuned!

tonynj 1 comment

I'm so glad you are part of the OpenExplorer Community, and it's true what you say about media being invaluable, which is why we've pushed out a new feature for a videos! If you'd like to feature anyone of your videos, you can link it to very top of your page, right about your expedition abstract.

Hello all. Wanted to post an update.

Unfortunately we were not able to get enough followers to get the ROV granted
to pursue our mission.

What I plan to do is keep an eye out for any other types of grants of funding to help with the costs, then I can get back on track to make this happen. I will post updates when I find some solutions.

There are some excellent expeditions here on openexplorer! I suggest you take a look at some of them, as this kind of research at the hands of the "hobbiest" is excellent and bound to unlock some
true mysteries.


tonynj 1 comment

Stay with it! More news coming this week!!

Update for K.L.A.S.S. -Explore NJ.

First thing we are doing is getting followers, without the followers, we won't have the ROV needed to move further.
So please get your friends and family on here, fill out a free account on openexplorer.com and click follow for our project!

I've connected with a few key people to work as collaborators. That's going to help as we have quite a bit of work to do.

I'm also making up an equipment list of things we need besides the ROV as well as potential add-ons to the ROV
that might be needed to accomplish some of our goals.

Thanks for the support!

tonynj 4 comments

Marine Archaeology is a super cool topic right now. Do you have any manmade objects in mind?!

There is a reservoir that I frequented several times that was originally farmland and purchased by the water company in the 1920's. They finally built a dam in the valley in the mid 60's and flooded the area. Some of the original farmhouse structures/foundations still sit there beneath the water, perfect for some marine archaeology.


There are also lots of sunken wrecks in and around Bayonne as well as "Shooter's Island" that would be cool to explore!

I really would like to explore some of the old wrecks on the edges of Bayonne, NJ. Ships like the Occidental were left to rot long ago and begging for some ROV time.
I won't be able to go visit them this time, tougher access, and lots of snags and rocks. I don't want to break an ROV on the first try! :) Check out this link: wikimapia.org/2332167/Port-Johnson-Wrecks

Expedition Background

K.L.A.S.S. - "Kids Learning About the Sea through Submersibles"

This project is an opportunity to introduce young people to applied science, engineering, history, and exploration at a young age as it relates to undersea environments. I stumbled across the OpenROV/OpenExplorer projects after searching for a new Beaglebone Black project and thought this would be perfect for me; as my background is in computer networking, linux systems, photography/imaging, and my passion is the sea.

My kids have inherited my love for the sea and all the mysteries it holds. Watching through their eyes, it becomes clear to me that young people don't always see the link between the science they learn in school and how it can be applied in the real world for real tasks. I see submersible exploration as a chance to help kids make the connection between the academics they are taught in school and the real world. They will also be energized performing real science when we investigate the ongoing recovery of SuperStorm Sandy.

All research is expected to be done in New Jersey. Topics covered will include understanding the biodiversity we see here in New Jersey, as well as examining how our undersea environment is recovering from Superstorm Sandy.
Below is a synopsis of our plan.

-Undersea Robotics - What is an ROV and how do we use it for some science.

-Freshwater sealife in their home environment.
(Fish, Snails, Plants, etc)

-Saltwater sealife in their home environment.
(Fish, JellyFish, Plants, etc)

-History/Archaeology exploring old manmade objects under water (old structures/old ships/barges)
(This may get expanded further)

-Pollution underwater (garbage, lack of sea life, etc.)

-Research and Examine how the undersea environment is recovering from SuperStorm Sandy

I am identifying the project in August of 2014 and hoping to build an OpenROV through the upcoming winter season, with sea trials beginning in May of 2015.

We need your help to make this happen! The OpenROV project is giving away a few ROV's to the projects with the top number or followers. So all you need to do to help us is register here at www.openexplorer.com and follow our project!

Thanks and check back soon for updates.


tonynj 1 comment

Great idea! Hope you can come see us at World Maker Faire in NYC (September 20 &21) NY Hall of Science or in October at the Hall of Science SUBMERGE! event on the Hudson - October 5th.