By Victor Calderon
The Robotics Team will seek to defend their title as the Marine Advanced Technology Education International ROV Champions later this month in Orlando.
The at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab in Houston.
But along with having taking part from middle schools, high schools, community colleges, universities and community organizations representing 24 states and eight countries, comes pressure to repeat.
"It feels good to have won the competition but it's harder this year," said team member Andrew Standriff, 16, a rising junior at the Carmichael private school. "But we're confident we can do it."
The Jesuit Robotics team, named ROVotics Underwater Solutions, operates in competition as a “company” and is dedicated to this year’s task of oil retrieval for the purpose of protecting the marine environment, according to a Jesuit news release. Their new robot, named Triton, can extract oil from the fuel tank of a shipwreck immediately upon its initial finding.
The ability to both survey and clear a site in the same mission run has the potential to prevent and contain environmental catastrophes, Jesuit officials said.
"The pressure is on because we won first place last year," said Joe Griffin, 18, the team's CEO and a who will study electrical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Techonology in tha fall. "If we can win again, we'll set a trend as a well-recognized and respected team."
The Jesuit team has been working on the project since November.
"These guys have worked Saturdays from November through June preparing for this, for no school credit," said Jesuit team coach Rolf Konstad. "They end up working late into the evening."
The competition has simulated real world events the past two years, Jesuit officials said. In last year’s competition the team was tasked with capping a leaking oil well 40 feet underwater, with only the use of underwater cameras for visual assistance.
In addition to capping the well, they had to collect specimens and water samples from around the site.
“Since the BP disaster, corporate awareness for the protection of the marine environment has exploded,” Griffin said in a released statment. “We specifically developed Triton to retrieve the fuel from these shipwrecks in order to avoid an ecological disaster, but we also designed it to be able to take the recovered oil and sell it in the open market for good use.”
This year’s task has a special connection to the California coast, Jesuit officials said. Located nearly 900 feet under the surface of Morro Bay, the SS Montebello is an oil tanker that was sunk by a Japanese submarine in World War II.
It is believed there still may be up to three million gallons of oil contained in the ship, officials said. As the ocean continues to slowly eat away at the Montebello’s hull, they said it is becoming even more important to remove any oil before it impacts the sensitive Central Coast.
"All of us together bring separate skills," said rising sophomore , 15. "When we bring it together, it's extraordinary."
The competition in Orlando is June 21-23. Jesuit gave the robotics team a stipend and they received additional donations of labor and goods, though Konstad said the team would welcome any community donations by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesuit's 17-member team will be responsible for developing a software program, a 30-minute presentation, a 20-page report and a poster.