Friday, March 26, 2010

Technical Training March 22, 2010

Our first technical training during spring break started in the lab at the hanger. We talked about the progress that we wanted to make for the day and the rest of the week and then we prepared for our informal demonstration at Poly Canyon Village. It was announced the week before to all the students housed in Poly Canyon that we would be down at the pool to show off some of the robots that we were working on. There was a small audience when we arrived and we told them about what we were doing in the pool and showed off each robot.

Alex and Jessie, with the assistance of Kevin, used the IVER to create a GPS map of the edges of the pool and then they wrote a program to have the IVER move from one end to the other. They had some trouble in the shallow end of the pool, but had a good run going from the shallow end to the deep end of the pool because it was a much longer run.

Greg worked on getting the lights back up and running on the crawler robot which had broken during transportation from the last trip. Since the light was broken he did not deploy the crawler into the water, but did drive it around on the deck around the pool.

Frank worked with the Video Ray ROV but was having trouble connecting his computer to the control box so he could not get sonar data or control the robot from the computer.

At one point a student brought a dog out to the pool area and it was very interested in the robots and was running around the pool following the robots in the water. After working at the pool for a while we all moved back to the lab and discussed what we all needed to do in terms of coding.

Kevin and Greg talked with professor Clark about coding with OpenCV to do video processing, while Alex and Jessie worked with the IVER code to prepare for the next day when they would deploy it out at the Cal Poly Pier. Frank worked with the computer trying to debug the problems with connecting to the control box of the Video Ray.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Technical Training 3/7/2010

On March 7th we headed to the Poly Canyon Village swimming pool to get some hands on experience with the IVER and VideoRay ROV. At this point Matt Maxson (a student working with Dr. Clark and the IVER for his senior project) and one or two others had repaired the IVER and it was operating at full capacity!

When we got to the pool we discovered that the IVER was still designed to float in sea water, so we had to re-ballast it. We took off all of the lead weights located along the bottom of the IVER but it was still a bit nose-heavy. At that point we realized that we had some bubble wrap so a couple of us went into the Poly Canyon Market and bought a roll of duct tape.

We were then able to launch the IVER and learning how to drive it around the pool. Matt Maxson drove it first to show the rest of us how it goes. He even got to demonstrate what the IVER does when it loses WiFi connection in manual mode. He drove it backwards too fast and because of the bubble wrap it tried diving to the bottom of the pool. Thirty seconds to a minute after losing the WiFi signal it rose to the surface and he was able to re-establish contact. After this we each took turns driving the IVER and "catching" it (making sure it didn't hit the pool walls).

While this was all going on Frank and Dr. Clark got out the VideoRay ROV so that we could all have a go at driving it in the pool. The ROV was fun to drive and a lot more maneuverable than the IVER. In fact the IVER's turn radius was too large for the pool and we ended up making a lot of three point turns. We also got to see how the sonar on the ROV worked and what the pool walls looked like on the sonar.

On the right you can see a picture of the ROV and IVER in the water near each other. It was funny seeing the ROV driving circles around the IVER. It also made it more of a challenge for the IVER driver to keep it from getting wrapped up in the ROV's tether. We all had a lot of fun driving both vehicles and look forward to making great progress before and during spring break.

If you want to see more pictures of this awesome day of training look here.

Cultural Training- March 5, 2010

To kick off our final cultural training meeting we discussed how the Artic is relevant to us. After reading multiple articles about the battle for power in the Artic as the ice melts between Germany, Russia, US, and Norway. This new age Gold Rush is a battle for resources and passage. Russia seems to be a powerful factor as they try to gain as much of the ocean area as possible in order to make large profits. Norway on the other hand seemingly can get away with a little bit more than Russia due to the fact it is less talked about. By introducing new technology into the Artic we are becoming a part of something bigger, because we are aiding in the race for resources. By being able to explore and test the newly accessible marine areas, new resources and innovations can arise. Our project has the possibility to have a lasting impact on people.

Our conversation then changed as we moved onto a very debated topic of whaling led by Alex. We started on Greenpeace and what it meant to us. Some viewed it with pride and looked at it as a success, while others said their idea of Greenpeace was militant hippies. We talked about one incident where members of Greenpeace chased down Norwegian whalers, the problem was, it was the Greenpeace members in the large boat chasing the small family boat. This made the Greenpeace members seem like the bad guys.

We learned of the history of Norwegian whaling, it started in the 1900s with just fishing and farming, but this left the Norwegians with little to do in the summer time. They soon took up small boats and harpoons and set out for whales in the 1930s. They hunted and killed minke whales, and by the 1980s this became 50-75% of their income. Back then and still today it is very community focused, with small owner operated boats, families helping once then men return, and the majority of the goods staying in the community.

In 1982 the IWC (International Whaling Commission) issued a moratorium banning whale hunting, which Norway complied with until 1992 where they presented a reasonable argument backed with research and facts on how to safely and with the least amount of harm to the whales continue harvesting them without endangering the population. The IWC did not accept their plan for a sustainable hunting of whales on a more ethical reasoning. They seemed to be under the influence of the "super whale" which is the combination of all the special attributes belonging to a single type of whale. The whale also seemed to be becoming a well known symbol of peace. It seemed morally wrong to some because the whale seems to be so mystical and close to humans, that it is impossible to compare it to normal harvesting of our commonly eaten land animals. This focus on the elimination of whaling was immediate gratification; it is easy to see the action and feel something being accomplished. This may overshadow more important issues that could be more difficult and a longer process before people can begin seeing the change.

We then compared the community focused Norway to Japan. Japan's practices leave the waters polluted which harms wildlife, their whaling is very commercial and big business ran with factory ships, and they do not limit their catches to a specific species of whale or certain season. Both Seinfeld and South Park have made an episode that relates to Japanese whaling, and a recent documentary The Cove has real footage from Japanese cruelty towards dolphins.

Our conversation finally to a change as we listened to Kevin as he told us about dams in Norway and their building standards. Bringing our conversation back to our second cultural training with the Sami people being negatively influenced by the industrialization and dam building when one ruined the Alta dam ruined their home. Because of the Alta incident over 400 basins are now protected. In response to a United Nations environmental committee on dams, they stated in about 5 different ways that the rights of the indigenous people.

A big issue in Norway is their energy issue, they have too much! They run on about 96% hydroelectric power, and 88% of that is controlled by the state or local government. They are trying to get locals to break into industry. The need for some friendly competition produces an idea of subcontracting or turning power into a franchise business possibly. A fun fact researched on the spot was Paraguay is 100% hydroelectric and sells 90% of their power.

Greg then gave us an overview of Norwegian Foreign/International/Humanitarian Aid. It started off in stating they were interested in a hands off approach. They believe on making lasting improvements that will strengthen their own abilities. Norway splits their assistance both bilateral (directly) and multilateral (UNICEF, etc). Norway's foreign aid policy helps 3rd world countries fight poverty, by the end of January they donated $17.5 million dollars to Haiti. In 1987 they were the number 1 provider of foreign aid percent of national GNP, and was number 4 in 2002. The Norwegian Labor Movement aides the population throughout Norway. A goal of helping people is to help build confidence and raise self sufficiency and egalitarianism.

Frank's topic was closely linked with Greg's as he went into details about how one way that Norway helped others is by helping others develop dams. Not only information, and aid, but also money to help fund the project. Norway helped Ethiopia build dams to harness power. The UN partnered with Norway to share experience, knowledge, and expertise so the people they teach have the skills and experience needed to be self-sufficient. Norway helped invest in clean energy in North Africa with multilateral and bilateral assistance. They helped fund the Tigre Dam which provided clean water and benefited over 550 households. One of the odd things brought up was how Norway doesn't always follow its own guidelines for building when going to other countries.

To wrap up the night Kevin once again took the lead to discuss environmental issues currently in Norway. While they are not nearly as discussed as the whaling issue, the issues were just brought to our attention. The idea of wind power plants are faced with the idea that they are visually unappealing and a danger to birds. Greenhouses versus gas. The increase in CO2. Ice shelves retreating destroying certain indigenous habitats. Pollution has been steadily decreasing over the decade. The problem of wolf hunting and whaling. And water policies concerning the basins and pollution. Some of the controversy stems form the very simple conflicting ideas of keeping nature as a whole versus protecting each individual animal.

Our last cultural training was an action packed one that hit a big touchy topic for Norway as well as exploring all the good that Norway provides to other countries.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Training # 1 - Intro to Pier and IVER AUV

On February 21st we had our first hands on technical training! It seems that our robots decided that they really like Norway and Europe and wished to stay longer. (aka Shipping Delays) So that’s exactly what they did. However their trip has finally ended, as they arrived back in California in what seemed to be one piece.

Each of the ICEX team members were given a reading assignment to study the technical documentation and research papers associated with the multiple underwater robots that Dr. Clark has. These robots include the IVER (aka AUV), VideoRay ROV, and the Crawler.

IVER Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV)

VideoRay Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)

Inuktun Versatrax 100 (Crawler)

The main goal for this meeting was to delegate the individual project assignments to the team members, meet the IVER and debug any prevailing issues it was having, and ensure everyone was on the same page with the required software needed to control the robots. We met at the Cal Poly owned research peer in San Luis Obispo where we have access to conduct tests. The peer is located in Avila Bay just south of SLO. The location is very scenic and a great place to work! (Pictured above)

Each of the team members were given an individual assignment/project to oversee and complete for this year’s ICEX project. Each project is unique and accomplishes a specific goal set forth by the team and our partners in Norway. Everyone is very excited about their projects, which are listed below.

Alex – Use the AUV to obtain oxygen level data in the fjord.

Frank – Use the ROV to autonomously track a pipe using vision processing.

Greg – Use the crawler to identify objects of interest on the seafloor.

Jessie – Use the AUV to navigate a grid through the fjord to obtain video footage of kelp deposits.

Kevin – Use the AUV and attached camera to create a map of the kelp deposits in the fjord.

At the training we all got the chance to get hands on with the IVER and learn the basic operation and assembly procedures. Once we got the IVER opened up we discovered a few issues/bugs that it was having. Unfortunately we weren’t able to get it in the water to drive around, but we definitely learned a lot and made good progress. We were able to view the driving GUI for the IVER and learn how to drive and read critical sensor values. We hope to drive the IVER and other vehicles in water at our next training.

The last training goal was to get critical software installed on our laptops that will be needed to control and program these many robots. There didn’t seem to be any issues with this process and everyone got the software installed.

Overall...a very productive meeting! It was very exciting to get our hands on a robot and start the technical portion of this great project. We hope to continue to make progress in preparation for our April trip to Norway!