This week I received a note from fellow open source hardware fan Matthew Fritch of the Philadelphia Water Department about a new program that involves a DIY Remote Operated underwater Vehicle (ROV). Matthew and fellow instructor Maria Horowitz helped students at Mariana Bracetti Academy build a vehicle and explore Tacony Creek. It’s all about checking out the effect of climate change on rivers and creeks, according to Matt.
“This is something that can help us explore the health of local benthic ecosystems—the plants, fish, insects and crustaceans that are living in along the bottom of our rivers and creeks,” Fritch explained. “We don’t often get down there to look at it, but this could provide a window into an important world.”
Philadelphia Water Department partnered with Fairmount Water Works for a grant through CUSP (Climate & Urban Systems Partnership) to bring this STEM expedition to life. Matthew has been engaging students with various hardware projects through the greenSTEM program, but I suspect this is the new favorite. Who wouldn’t want to control an underwater vehicle with a game controller? Check out the aquatic life from the cam.
The underwater drone appears to be a DIY kit from OpenROV that utilizes Beaglebone Black and Arduino MEGA microprocessors. Maximum forward speed is listed at 2 knots, depth is 100m and battery time is approximately 2-3 hours. Oh yes, and it is fun to drive. Apparently OpenROV has an active community with people using underwater vehicles for all sorts of expeditions from examining coral bleaching, searching for sunken steamships or even locating fallen meteorites. You can learn more about the Philadelphia project and how the ROV is now being used to train Watershed Stewards over on greenSTEM’s blog. I know I’m hooked.