Project Pegasus

February 27 2017

Project Pegasus is a collaborative subtidal research and outreach project, bringing together a team of high school interns and a graduate student mentor. The high school interns will participate in the construction and implementation of an OpenROV v2.8 remotely operated vehicle. Interns will take an active role in building and using the ROV for a suite of projects related to nearshore ecology and bathymetry in Southern California.

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February 27 2017


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Preparation Stage

Project Pegasus Part 5 – Bringing it All Together

This week’s module was big milestone; today we finally started assembling the main body of Pegasus. After spending so much time welding acrylic and soldering connections, the team and I were really excited to secure the main body, battery tubes, camera chassis to the outer frame of the ROV. The Edwards Lab was able to purchase an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU)/depth sensor combo. This tiny sensor, about the size of a standard Lego™ brick, contains a gyroscope, accelerometer and a depth sensor so we can get real-time measurements of Pegasus’s pitch, roll and depth underwater. All of this meant that we had another tricky set of connections to solder. But, as always, the team members of Project Pegasus rose to the occasion.

Here’s what Aaron has to say:

“Up until today, the ROV was just a bunch of parts and pieces laying. I could feel the energy in the team once every component was set in place to make the ROV look like an actual ROV!

The team completed steps 27 and step 5 on the IMU depth sensor and module. We each had a turn at connecting the IMU which was one heck of an extensive job! In the end we were able to make the IMU and connections look outstandingly amazing.

The next step was getting the battery tubes mounted up by solvent-welding the battery end caps. Everything was smooth sailing until we applied epoxy to the battery end caps [to water-proof them] when we discovered epoxy leaking into the battery tube itself! Luckily we caught this before it was too late [when we submerge Pegasus in the water]”

Aaron makes a good point; as we get toward the end of the build-phase of Pegasus we really can’t afford to make any mistakes. While Pegasus is really coming together, we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us before our little ROV can actually jump in the water.

Stay tuned, next time we’ll put the final touches on Pegasus and get ready for our first dive!

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Pegasus Part 4 – Making New Connections

Our module today saw us back at the soldering station, prepping wires and mounting our ROV’s motors. Unfortunately, our team learned a valuable lesson early on today: always come prepared with the right tools. Due to a lack of wire strippers (forgotten by yours truly), we quickly had to improvise; we had to find a way of stripping the rubber insulation off of the wires without cutting the wire itself. This proved to be no easy feat, but I am proud to say that the team held it together with grace and patience and at the end of the day everything worked out.

Here’s what team member Lorenzo had to say:

“Today is the day we finally get to put together the wire routing and motors for Pegasus (our ROV). It was a very exciting build because we were able to attach the motors with propellers to the main body. There are three motors on the ROV; port and starboard (left and right) motors drive the propellers which give the ROV directional thrust. The third motor provides vertical thrust. Once we finished prepping the motor we soon began working on the wiring of Pegasus itself by soldering some of the main wires that were color coded to match the motor wires. To do this we striped the appropriate wires from the DB-25 connector and the motor wires. There are three wires for the motor which means we had to solder three connections per motor! The soldering today was a major challenge as we had to figure out how to strip the wires without wire cutters and to wrap the exposed wire to the exposed wire. To make the soldered wires protected we melted plastic tubing (called heat shrink) on to it as any exposed wire is dangerous and must be covered by something that doesn’t conduct electricity. Wire routing was also a challenge as we had to figure out what wires go in what direction and should be attached at which point to the inner frame of Pegasus. We used zip ties to clearly organize the wires, which will make the inner components of the ROV run more smoothly. Even though we made a few mistakes along the way, we learned from them and it all worked out in the end.

This module brought the team closer together; solving tough challenges when things go wrong and learning from them is all part of the process when working on a project like this one. I am very happy, each day brings new exciting challenges and builds as we are almost finished building our ROV. In the end, the experiences and a chance to help others with what we are doing is the important part of all as this and soon we’ll be able to fly Pegasus in the ocean.”

Well said Lorenzo! We’re just a few more build-days away from completing the construction of Pegasus! At this point soldering, acrylic welding and cooperation are second nature to Project Pegasus interns, and I couldn’t be more proud.

Be sure to check back in as we work towards getting Pegasus built and in the water!

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Project Pegasus: Part 3 – A Soldering Situation

Today is the big day as it marks our team’s first attempt at soldering! While most of the OpenROV™ instructions up to this point called for acrylic solvent welding to make the internal structures of our ROV, the assembly of the electronics requires a technical approach. After all, the electronic components are really the hallmark of our ROV. We need to be able to communicate with and control our vehicle, as well as capture video from the camera. We’ll also be adding extra components to our ROV, such as external lights and sensors, all of which will be wired to the main circuit board.

Here’s Maddie’s take on today’s build:

“As our first official experience with soldering, Module 3 was a challenging yet successful step towards the completion of Pegasus. Today’s build began with assembling circuit boards as well as the top-side communication box. This required our team to pay close attention to detail when connecting wires and pins. Our next steps involved soldering the wires that control video and power connection to the camera board. Soldering is a process in which a bond is formed between two or more metal components by melting and putting a filler metal (solder) into the joint. We applied solder to the soldering iron, and then used the “tinned” iron to form a bond with the wires and the board. Each of us got a turn and were very successful considering it was our first attempt. The most challenging aspect of soldering is that you are working with an extremely hot piece of equipment in a very tight space with little room for error. After this was completed, we assembled the camera mount which entailed connecting wires in a precise orientation on the camera board and main control panel. The camera board is situated within a structural unit that will allow the angle of the camera to be changed with the help of the “servo”. Today was a complex build, but we were able to complete Module 3.

In this module, our team continued to build teamwork skills which are critical to the completion of Pegasus. We learned that working together to analyze the instructions is key to avoiding mistakes. Due to our collaboration, we even found a few errors and misrepresentations in the instructions. As the saying goes, “teamwork is dream work” and we are working hard to accomplish our goals!”

Well said Maddie, well said. Be sure to stay tuned, we’ve only got two more modules to go until we’re ready to start testing Pegasus!


Project Pegasus.

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After completing our first of five modules, we were ready to get back to work on Pegasus. The second set of instructions saw us using acrylic cement again to solvent-weld some of the internal structures of our ROV together. However, the stakes were a lot higher this time. At a certain point, we’re going to have to start building and using the electronic components of our ROV. After all, the propose of building Pegasus is to gather invaluable data, which includes real-time video from our upcoming dives. For this build we had to saw off the end of a syringe (for use later on), solvent-weld more acrylic, and super glue the DB-25 connector in to place, which is a major connection point for the electronic components.

Here’s what Project Pegasus intern Jordan Schultz had to say about today’s build:

“We were still using solvent welding to cement the plastic structural pieces together. We made sure to measure at least five times before we did any cementing of the acrylic in order to ensure no errors would occur. Everyone on the team got a turn with the dropper of acrylic solvent, however, we have noticed that it is difficult to control the speed at which the solvent comes out of the dropper. Because of this, we had to be very careful when applying the solvent, especially because it will cement the plastic together in a matter of seconds. We had a few incidents where the water-like substance poured out of the dropper, which lead to gloves being taken off and hands rapidly being washed. Nevertheless, we were able to cement the acrylic together efficiently. An important lesson we learned today was that preparation is key to being successful. If we all show up ready to build but we do not have the proper tools, little can be done. Thus moving forward, it is essential that we plan and prepare ahead of time in order to make certain that we are diligent and productive with our time.”

After it was all said and done, we had to apply fast-setting epoxy to water-proof some of the components from this week’s module and last week’s as well. Looking at the individual pieces, it’s hard to believe that after three more modules we’ll be submerging our very own ROV in the ocean!

Be sure to stay tuned, next time the team and I will learn all about soldering!

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It's been a month since this project has started, and in the interim, as part of this internship, the team members are each responsible for drafting grant proposals centered around ROV-related projects. I’m really proud of the team’s creativity, so be sure to check back in for updates as we move forward.

However, as of March 21s, we’re finally getting started with the actually construction of our ROV! I'm pleased to announce that our OpenROV v2.8 kit has finally arrived. We've begun working on the first construction module; the team and I learned a lot about acrylic and solvent welding. For example, you don’t technically glue acrylic, you use a solvent to weld pieces together. Along the way my interns and I will be learning how to solder, work with circuit boards, and trouble-shoot any and all issues related to the construction and deployment of an ROV. And the clock is already ticking! We’ve got just a few short months before the Edwards Lab takes off for our last Aleutians cruise, and we’ve already got big plans for little Pegasus.

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Expedition Background

In 2017 a group of high school interns from the La Jolla Windansea Surf Club and a graduate student from San Diego State University teamed up to tackle research questions related to the nearshore ecology and bathymetry of Southern California.

The traditional marine ecology approach to studying nearshore systems relies heavily on field experiments and manipulations, often times restricting data gathering to those who are scientific-SCUBA certified. Likewise, physical data in the marine environment can be costly to gather and record. At the core of these two disciplines is a desire to understand the marine environment that is both holistic and inclusive. Therefore, OpenROV is the perfect platform; interns will assist with data gathering in a safe yet applicable way without needing formal subtidal experience.

Throughout this internship experience the high school team will help draft grant applications, blog posts and outreach statements as well as strengthening their college applications.

The use of a remotely operated vehicle is the perfect tool for a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding our coastal oceans, as well as engaging with the general public.

This sounds great! Excited to follow along. This idea is key:

"assist with data gathering in a safe yet applicable way without needing formal subtidal experience"

If you develop a method and curriculum for this, it has applications for citizen scientists as well as students.