THE OZAUKEE HIGH SCHOOL robotics team enjoyed the taste of victory last weekend, winning a regional championship in Milwaukee. The 14-member team, and their robot GEN3, head to the NASA Johnson Space Center in Houston this summer for the MATE International ROV Competition. Photo by Mark Jaeger
Students win underwater challenge, heading to NASA Space Center lab
After last year’s success in international competition, the Ozaukee High School advanced physics class was the team to beat when it took part in Sunday’s robotic competition at the Klotsche Center swimming pool on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
If the 14-member team felt any pressure to repeat as state champions during the Marine Advanced Technology Education ROV competition, there was no evidence in the results.
The OHS team, which named their robotic creation GEN3, was the runaway winner in the competition among six Wisconsin high school teams.
The team advanced to the international competition June 16-18 at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston, Texas.
For last weekend’s challenge, the team had to design a robot capable of intervening in a mock deep-sea oil spill, similar to the one that occurred last summer in the Gulf of Mexico.
The robot was designed to cut off a broken riser pipe, kill the oil flow by inserting a hose into the simulated well and cap the well.
Samples of colored water representing oil also had to be retrieved without being contaminated by pool water. Simulated biological samples — a PVC crab and a glass sponge and sea cucumber — also had to be brought back intact to the surface.
The OHS team finished all but one of the challenge tasks in the allotted 15-minute time period.
The team mentors are teacher Terry Hendrikse and Randy Vogt, an electrical engineer.
Two of the team members, seniors Nick Vogt and Dominic Enea, were on last year’s team that finished 13th during the championships held in Hawaii.
Other members include Dustin Richter, Jeff Kresse, Eric Hartnett, Matt Demler, Joey Leiphart, Mitch Janke, Andrew Habich, Ali Hughes, Elliot Thome, Alex Burmesch and Clara Paulus.
German exchange student Sandra Kotzian is also on the team.
“These are sharp kids,” Hendrikse said, noting that about half of the team earned scores of 30 or higher on the ACT test.
“These students are very focused on being the best in the world and considering their regional score, they have a chance at obtaining this goal.”
Hendrikse said the class is run like a business.
“Each student had to apply for jobs and was chosen by the student CEO (Dustin Richter) and teacher based on experience and talent level,” he said.
Jobs included accountant, business manager, tool engineer, creative director, frame engineers, CAD drawer, technical writer, electrical engineer, software engineer, research and development, practice coordinator and director.
Hendrikse said the students worked an estimated 1,500 hours on the design and fabrication and spent about 100 hours writing and editing a 20-page technical report.
The underwater robot had four video cameras and is connected to a deckside Playstation 2 controller. Hendrikse said 1,000 lines of computer code had to be written to program the device.
Dustin Richter called the competition a growth experience for students.
“Of course I learned the science and technical aspect behind ROVs, but more importantly, I was able to grow as a person because of the unique interactions and experiences involved with the competition,” Richter said.
“It was a immense responsibility, but ultimately it was a phenomenal opportunity to be the head of such an involved and intricate operation.”
Richter said the ongoing success of the robotics program is an indication of the quality teachers at Ozaukee High.
“Teachers such Mr. Hendrikse are truly appreciated by students, as he strives to provide unique and enriching educational opportunities not seen in any surrounding districts,” he said.