Volume 3 2013

James Grandt. Photo: Terri Liebmann/Aquatic Sciences Center.

Education News

R Is for ROV

Wisconsin Sea Grant is poised to add a cool new tech tool to its education outreach arsenal—an underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV).

Kathy Kline, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s education outreach coordinator, has been featuring an ROV as part of the presentations she makes to children and families at the UW-Madison’s annual Grandparents University event. It’s a great, hands-on way to talk about how marine researchers and divers use the device to perform key tasks like water sampling.

But each time, she’s had to borrow a unit from researchers at the UW-Milwaukee School of Freshwater Sciences. Given the extravagant cost of most high-end ROVs—“as much as a Toyota Corolla,” Phil Moy, Wisconsin Sea Grant’s assistant director for research, is fond of saying—acquiring an ROV seemed impossible.

Not anymore, thanks to a pair of underwater robot enthusiasts who formed a project called OpenROV, an open-source, do-it-yourself community of explorers dedicated to making ROV tech accessible to the masses. They’ve created an ROV kit that’s affordable for programs like Wisconsin Sea Grant to purchase and use for science and education.

ROVs offer several functional advantages, including the ability to reach underwater places where divers can’t go. Wisconsin Sea Grant plans to use it to collect water samples and capture underwater video at shipwreck sites in the Great Lakes. Kline also plans to take it out into the field, letting kids test-drive it in the waters near the docks of various Madison-area lakes.

 “It’s a nice way to bring in some engineering to our presentations,” said Kline. “And of course, the kids all think it’s cool—wow, an underwater robot! They’re also a lot better at driving it than I am,” Kline joked.

The Aquatic Sciences Center is the administrative home of the
University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute & University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute.

©2011 University of Wisconsin Board of Regents