Aptos High robotics team wins international competition

Aptos High School’s Seal Team Scalyr won the International Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle (MATE ROV) competition in Kingsport, Tenn. — Contributed

For the second time in three years Aptos High School’s Seal Team Scalyr took first place in the International Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle (MATE ROV) competition at Kingsport, Tenn.

Hundreds of aspiring engineers from around the globe traveled to The Volunteer State in late June with robots designed to accomplish complex tasks underwater in tow, but Team Scalyr bested them all to return to the top of the mountain two years after its first victory.

“This is an exceptional team, students have worked extremely hard to earn their place as the world champion ROV team,” Aptos High Science Teacher and Robotics Club Faculty Mentor Joe Manildi said. “They dedicated hundreds of hours to design, build, organize and test their robot, with each person working both individually and as a team. They are dedicated, hard working, talented, kind, fun,and have learned to work together and trust each other.”

Teams are judged on several categories; the most points are garnered by the ROVs’ capabilities. Each team’s technical report, sales presentation and marketing display are also evaluated. Additional points are given for community outreach, which involves spreading interest in technology and awareness of environmental issues.

After three days of piloting, demonstrating and presenting, the Aptos team won both ROV speed and ability and marketing display categories, placing it first overall against 45 teams from 19 different countries, including Newfoundland, Egypt, India and Japan.

The second place team was from the Center of Robotics Development in Vladivostok, Russia.

“The international competition is so much fun because you get to see how other teams approached the same problem,” ROV team member Johan Govaars said.

Teams qualify for the international competition by winning in their region. The Northern California regional competition this year was held at Watsonville High in May.

After Scalyr’s regional victory, the team worked to improve the reliability of their robot’s design. Team member Sun Woo Da Costa explained that the many complex parts mean that the odds of something failing during the competition is high.

“Almost every component takes several attempts before it works the way we want it to, so when it finally does, it feels so amazing,” teammate Amelia Lovell added.

The team’s latest robot, Argo VI, solves simulated tasks that real ROVs perform in oceans and lakes — from restoring a broken dam to recovering sunken artifacts. The team created innovative solutions to its mission, using custom-designed tools such as a 3D printed claw, a small, detachable robot from their primary vehicle and image recognition software.

Student Cameron Barrett said the Argo VI’s “infinitely rotating claw set us apart.”

Jacob Sandler added that another secret to their success was staying true to their goal to start mission runs a month before the competition.

“We master tasks that other teams may have been able to accomplish if they had practiced more,” Sandler said.

Team mentor Victor Da Costa attributed the team’s success to a “commitment to five years of hands-on experience in electronics, mechanics and software design.”

The Aptos High team is made up of one sophomore, eight juniors and three seniors. The students are a combination of three teams that started competing in the seventh grade in Aptos Junior High at the beginner level, advancing each year through intermediate to advanced level.

The Argo VI trip to the international competition was sponsored by Nordic Naturals and Scalyr of San Mateo. Additional support came from Aptos High Booster Club, and PVUSD District fund, Ship Smart of Aptos, Provac, Jaco, Aqua-Vu, Cabrillo Makerspace and individual donations.

“We are fortunate and grateful to have support from the coaches, parents, school, and community to guide and fund their efforts,” Robotics Club Mentor Joe Manildi said.

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