Robotics Anonymous | 'No kit, no guidebook'

Mentor Timmie Sinclair explains a concept with the propulsion system to team members Grace Lee and Peter Moore, team members of Robotics Anonymous.  - Celeste Erickson / The Record
Mentor Timmie Sinclair explains a concept with the propulsion system to team members Grace Lee and Peter Moore, team members of Robotics Anonymous.
— image credit: Celeste Erickson / The Record

The underwater robotics competition just got a little tougher on South Whidbey.

A new team, Robotics Anonymous, is putting their best propeller forward in competing in the Ranger division of the Pacific Northwest Regional Underwater Robotics Competition in May. With recent grants, a new 3D printer and custom designs, the rookie team is hoping to give other regional teams a run for their money.

The top two teams in the regional competition will advance to the international competition, called Marine Advanced Technology Education Center’s International ROV competition, in Michigan.

“There’s no kit, no guide book,” said Whidbey resident and team mentor Timmie Sinclair. “They’re engineering this from the idea up.”

The competition theme is “exploring the Great Lakes,” and combines the challenges of a shipwreck, science and conservation.

The 11-member team began working toward the competition in September as an elective class at South Whidbey Academy. After receiving a $1,500 grant from South Whidbey Schools Foundation and financial support along with a loaner 3D printer from MakerBot, a 3D printing company, the team has started to see its designs in final form.

For 16-year-old Grace Lee, working on the team has been a “pretty cool” experience. Lee is in charge of payload for the bot.

“It’s a good feeling working on things and succeeding,” Grace said. “It’s preparing us to make connections with other people.”

The team hopes to have an operational robot by the end of December. Currently, they are using the printer to build the designs for the propulsion system.

But it’s more than a competition — for Robotics Anonymous, it’s a business. The team is divided into two groups, an engineering and a business team, which goes into the final score.

The team sought the marketing help of Whidbey resident Chuck Pettis, brand director of MakerBot.

Pettis said working in the 3D printing industry right now is like getting in at the beginning of PC software. In this century it’s hard to rely on an employer, this is an opportunity for students to take control and run their own business, he said.

“It’s the place to be to have an amazing career. 3D printing is the next revolution,” he said.

Taylor Capiola, 15, is the chief operations officer for the team.

The team is a good fit for Taylor — he said he always had an interest in electronics and would take apart hand-held remote controllers.

Taylor said he believes this is probably going to be one of his best memories in school.

“It’s an elective credit, but for me it’s not really a class,” Taylor said. “I want to be here.”

That’s a sentiment Sinclair said she sees with the entire class. There’s no one packing up backpacks five minutes before the bell rings. Students work up to the last minute in class, then rush to make their bus, she said.

“The best part is, they don’t know what they can’t do,” she said.


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