Surfriders Dive Under Water For Florida Meet


Kailua High School’s team-designed ROV took first place May 19 in the Regional Underwater Robotics Challenge in Hawaii, qualifying the Surfriders for the international competition in Orlando, Fla., this month. Photo from Len Poleshaj.

Kailua High School’s underwater robotics team is expected in Orlando, Fla., next week to assess damage from a sunken oil tanker. If the team’s ROV (remotely operated vehicle) achieves its mission, it could be crowned champion of the international 2012 Underwater Robotics Challenge.

“The scenario of the mission is that an oil tanker ship has sunk and must be assessed,” said Len Poleshaj, mentor and instructor for the nine Surfriders – all juniors. “Missions include retrieving a fallen mast, surveying the debris field (discriminating between coral and metal), simulating various sonar readings, relocating biological materials, extracting a sample of bunker oil, and graphing the orientation of the ship itself.” All this in 15 minutes.

The group began designing, testing and refining their ROV in January for the after-school program, and then moved operations to Poleshaj’s Kailua home, which has a swimming pool good for practice sessions. The humans also had to refine how they controlled the ROV from above using pneumatics and an electronic control box.

“The ROV is equipped with four video cameras which send a live feed to a TV monitor the team views on the surface,” Poleshaj explained. “All of these systems were designed and engineered by the team members.”

Their ROV took first place May 19 in the Ranger class at the regional challenge at Richardson Rec Center Pearl Harbor, which is sponsored by Marine Advanced Tech-nology Education.

The next thing they knew, it was fundraising time. One tradition for Kailua High is the benefit imu roast, which Poleshaj’s students are promoting for this weekend on campus. Although it’s too late now to preorder imu tickets, Poleshaj just may have another idea for how residents can donate to the travel fund. To offer help, call him at 256-4343.

The Florida competition, also sponsored by MATE, is set for June 21-23, and the Kailua team will be up against teams from across the nation as well as China, Macao, Russia and the United Kingdom. They also must submit a written technical engineering report and give an oral presentation to judges.

The Surfriders are no strangers to the underwater battles. They have competed on the international level several times, including twice in the past four years under Poleshaj’s watch.