During the summer, some undergrads work retail. Others plant trees. Theodore Soong, Lawrence Lee and two dozen other engineering students spent much of their summer toiling away in a basement lab, building a robotic “submarine.”
The students’ creation looks like a small, clear suitcase – with five propellers, two cameras to act as “eyes” and a digital compass. In July, the students travelled to California to enter their “aquabot” in an international competition that requires each machine to dive, perform tasks underwater and then surface – guided only by a program on its on-board computer.
The team’s biggest challenge? Keeping the internal components dry. “If there’s a way in, water will always find it,” says Lee, a mechanical-engineering student.
U of T won best new entry in the contest three years ago, and Soong had high hopes for this year’s competition. But a computer glitch foiled the team’s chance for victory. They finished a still-respectable 19th.