Engineering Students Fight the Sea with Integra

Protecting delicate electrical mechanics in diverse environments is our main objective, and we like to ensure our enclosures stand up to the most harsh and destructive surroundings imaginable. When a group of young adults worked together and constructed an innovative, remotely operated vehicle from scratch, Integra’s polycarbonate boxes were the best solution to protect their electronics.

A team of undergrads from the Milwaukee School of Engineering in Wisconsin entered the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) International Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) Competition in Seattle, WA this past year. With the Ocean Observatories Initiative in mind, the club wanted to create a fault proof ROV that could collect information from the ocean for weather
predictions, possible ocean and plate tectonic changes, and marine life observations.

The overwhelming pressure from the ocean makes it hard for humans to remain in the water for extended periods of time and limits them from observing the activity on the ocean floor. Inventions
documenting remote continuous data would enhance scientists’ comprehension of the deep blue sea. Today, more devices are being submerged into the ocean with direct connection to computer
labs for real-time explanations.

MSOE’s MATE ROV submission—Bubbles—was specifically designed for submersion and sampling underwater activity. In order to house the sensitive electrical mechanisms and guarantee efficient performance, the students needed a dry housing solution. Integra Enclosures was happy to donate two 10” X 8” X 6” enclosures to stand up to the challenges of the sea.

No Wasted Space

Making sure Bubbles ran smoothly was the main priority, and in order to do this the heart of the device had to continue to run at all times. The electrical devices were handled with care, and not an inch of the enclosure was wasted. The students divided the space into three layers for easy removal and service if needed: power distribution, power conversion and cameras/other logic device

Polycarbonate Resolves Challenges

Bubbles faced two challenges during the competition and Integra stepped in to help with each.

The first issue was a technical challenge. Originally, the students wanted to use a waterproof motor, but after reviewing the rules they discovered the motor could not operate within the water—it had to be housed. Fortunately, our enclosure proved to keep all components dry and operating. Polycarbonate omitted potential electrical shorts, reduced the risk of corrosion and with an IP 68 rating, maintained the ability to remain submerged in one meter or greater or water.

The second drawback revolved around buoyance. Polycarbonate enclosures are significantly lighter than stainless steel or fiberglass enclosures, and are the perfect counteraction against the weight
of the fasteners, manipulators, electronics and motors. Strapped on to the top of Bubbles’ frame, our enclosure offered 77kN of flotation.

The dedicated students from MSOE worked hard and earned high marks among 23 competing teams. They were able to place 1st in the presentation category, 2nd in the technical report category and 13th overall. Led by a freshman CEO, these numbers are extraordinary. The students can’t wait to start making improvements when the new school year starts, and they plan on entering the 2014 competition with a vengeance—and you can bet Integra will be ready to help them every step of the way.

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