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Department of Communications/
News Bureau
22 Davis Hall, 10 Lippitt Road, Kingston, RI 0288
Phone: 401-874-2116 Fax: 401-874-7872

Media Contact: Todd McLeish 874-7892

URI student guides N.K. high schoolers
to regional underwater robotics championship

KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 16, 2003 -- A team of six students from North Kingstown High School is preparing for the national underwater robotics competition after winning the New England regional contest last month.

The team is led by University of Rhode Island ocean engineering student Brennan Phillips of Niantic, Conn., who received a research grant from URI to introduce the students to the field of underwater robotics and bring them to the regional competition. North Kingstown High School teacher Richard Hartman, a retired submarine captain, is also guiding the student team.
"It ended up being a great collaboration between Captain Hartman and I," said Phillips. "He had designed a curriculum for his physics class about underwater robotics, and six of his students were really into it. When he heard about my grant, we decided to combine my project with his. The students visited URI 10 or 15 times and had access to our equipment and our pool to practice."

The competition required that the students construct a remotely operated underwater vehicle that could maneuver through a submerged cube and collect rings suspended inside the cube. The event was intended to model the task of exploring the various rooms in the sunken Titanic and retrieving artifacts.

The students designed and built a vehicle with four propellers, a mounted video camera, and a unique device for collecting the rings. They nicknamed the vehicle The Beast.

Twelve teams, including two university teams, participated in the regional competition in Boston at the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School.

"The competition was extremely close," Phillips noted. "Other teams collected more objects than we did, but our presentation and technical paper, which counted for half the total score, blew them all away. It was the written work that won the competition for us."

Team members were Alex Suzzi, the team’s captain; Jean Paul Vandeputte, who wrote most of the technical paper; Eric Goulet, who did most of the electrical work; Devon Montecarlo and Tori Scott, who played a major role in preparing the group’s presentation; and Nick Cooper. Assisting the team were URI students Bradford Teer, Ben Potter and Chris Kreuter.
"Our team had the advantage of being able to utilize the ocean engineering facilities and faculty advice at URI," said Phillips. "None of the other teams had access to anything like what we’ve got here."

The national competition will take place June 19 through 21 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The event is sponsored by the Marine Technology Society and the Marine Advanced Technology Education Center in Monterey, Calif.

"For the nationals, the students are going to change the vehicle a little to make sure the props are secured better, and we might get a new video camera so we can see where we’re going better," Phillips explained. "Bottom line, I think they’re going to win!"

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