Underwater rover debuts

Centralia College Venturi

At one and half feet tall, one foot wide, and two feet long, the CC Venturi looks more like a hodgepodge of plumbing parts than what it really is – a sophisticated underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) built to explore and collect visual, audio, and physical samples in deep water.

The underwater ROV is a 3D robot, controlled from the surface of the water, designed to dive, and maneuver at a depth of more than 200 feet. It’s equipped with barometric, temperature, depth, and pressure sensors, and has live video and audio that is controlled from the surface.

But this project wasn’t built by a company, or by students at a large university, it was designed, built, and tested over the past 15 months by two Centralia College engineering students, Micah Corwin and Blake Wiley, with the assistance of Centralia College’s Applied Physics and Engineering Club (APEC).

Corwin, now in his third year at Centralia College, has plans to attend the University of Washington to earn a degree in mechanical engineering. Earlier this year, Wiley transferred from Centralia College to St. Martins University, where he is earning the same degree.

“I’m so proud of the hard work and dedication they’ve put in,” said Corwin’s father Jeremy. “But his mother and I will be happy to get our kitchen back, it’s been covered in parts for about 15 months now.”

The CC Venturi held its maiden voyage on Nov. 7 at a small private lake in Centralia during a rain storm, and was attended by a large contingency of students, members of the community, and family. Projects of this size are usually restricted to large colleges and universities. This project was made possible with the vision of the Centralia College Foundation through a Capstone Grant, which provides financial support for student projects that enhance their education, research, and the college and community. Centralia College is the only community college in Washington that provides this level of support for independent student projects.

“We were supposed to launch this past summer,” Corwin said. “There were problems that we had to work through along the way, if it wasn’t hardware, it was software, sometimes both. Plus we had to teach ourselves how to program software in the first place.”

The students have plans to use the ROV to explore and collect data from local lakes and shores, including Mayfield Lake and Puget Sound. The geology department has shown great interest in using the vehicle to collect data from local ancient submerged petrified forests. There are also plans for adding additional sensors and equipment to the ROV, such as a scoop to collect soil samples.

“It took longer than we expected to complete with all of the coding and electronic work, but it was a great learning experience that I could never have received in the classroom,” Corwin said. “We are really grateful to the college and the foundation for all of their support. We would never have had this opportunity without it.”

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