May 30, 2009

Day 4 - Endurance

The endurance event marks one of the pinnacles of the competition, and stays true to its namesake. Today tested the endurance of both Hydra and the crew, with over 4 hours on the water in the grueling sun. We started off by setting up Robbie Wedler for the first heat:

Over the next 2 hours we completed circuits around a circular course along with all other teams. We completed around 11.5 laps over the two hour period.
(Image courtesy of Scott Miller
Fortunately the team from Monterrey finally got on the water and did one exhibition lap to show off their boat.
(Image courtesy of Scott Miller
Another cool boat was the rookie team from Southampton, UK seen below.
(Image courtesy of Scott Miller

After the first heat, we quickly scrambled to use our charge controller to charge up one of our batteries to be used in the 2nd heat.

At 1:30 we got into the water for the second heat, with Riddhi as pilot.
We competed again for 2 hours, and finished with a similar length of 10.75 laps.
Both heats gave us times that were better than last year, so the new hull offered some potential improvements in endurance. Preliminary team analysis after the event indicated that the primary limiters on performance were the 4-year old batteries and the selected propeller.

After the race, we set up the boat for the Sprint event tomorrow, then headed back to the hotel to refresh after a long day in and around the water. The team is looking forward to tomorrow, where we will go through some elimination sprint rounds before our final heats. The end of tomorrow will be the awards ceremony, where our final standing will be revealed, along with any other awards we may get. Unfortunately, immediately after the competition we will be hopping in the van to head back to Pittsburgh, so I may not get the chance to update this until midday Monday, but I promise to get you the results of the competition (along with some new pictures) as soon as they become available.
- Mark

May 29, 2009

Day 3 - Sprint First Heat

Today we saw the first heat of the main Sprint, as well as the first appearance of Sun at the competition. The team got hard to work getting out the solar panels out and ready to charge our batteries.

We set up our visual display and were ready to entertain the crowds (as well as the judges).
Our systems were set up and ready to go for the first Sprint heat, but unfortunately some other teams were substantially less fortunate. The team from Tecnológico de Monterrey had several issues with their flotation due to some stress fractures on their way up to competition.
While they rescued their boat, their drive train got submerged and their motor controller got completely fried. Andrew and I along with the rest of the team, as well as members of the Southampton team, tried to get the controller up and running.
We lent the team some of our endurance batteries in order to help diagnose the problem. As a last ditch effort, we sent over our electrical trio of David, Austin, and Robbie to see if they could work some of their electrical magic.
Unfortunately, after a few hours of troubleshooting there was nothing that could be done to fix the controller. The team from Tecnológico de Monterrey was disqualified from the competition, however if they are able to get their boat working by the end of the competition they will be allowed an few exhibition events to showcase their boat. We will do what we can to help them over the next few days, but at that point our efforts shifted to getting ready for the first sprint event.

After adjusting some of the data-logging code for the control hardware, we headed done to the water with Hydra.

After loading her into the water, Hydra competed head to head with the boat from Middle Tennessee State University. Hydra clocked in 39.46 seconds, which is on par with some of our fastest recorded times.(Image courtest of Scott Miller:
We took some video, and will hopefully be posting it after the competition when we can upload them.

Thanks to some quality work by Austin, David, and Robbie we were able to record critical stats about the boat performance. This will make analyzing boat performance much more accurate than in prior years. Below is a graph of some of our current data during our Sprint event:

After the Spring event, we grabbed a few snacks, and then got hard to work transitioning over to the endurance configuration.
After we were done for the day, we went to a local park for a team ultimate frisbee game, some quality team-building, and then had some delicious BBQ with the Wedler family.

Overall we did very well today, and I was very proud of the entire team. We had no major problems, and performed well in the Sprint event, even with our new hull that is optimized for endurance.
Tomorrow is the Endurance event, with 400 points up for grabs, and will be a deciding factor in how our overall standing will be determined. Hopefully, with our new hull and electrical system, we will be able to better our performance from last year and increase our overall standing in the competition. Right now we are planning our strategy for tomorrow, and we are looking forward to what interesting and exciting challenges await us tomorrow.

Check back for updates as they become available!
- Mark

May 28, 2009

Day 2 - Qualifiers and Slalom

On to Day 2!

Today we completed our on the water inspection, followed by the maneuverability and sprint qualifier, then the Slalom event. We first started by getting Hydra into the water for inspections.

We had a minor problem when our tow rope on the trailer came loose, but freshman Jon Boerner gallantly came to the rescue and submerged himself in the Arkansas water to save the trailer. After that debacle, we finished water inspection and Mike Barako flawlessly executed our maneuverability qualifier.

After that, we changed over to the sprint configuration and completed our 75 meter Sprint qualifier in 12.4 seconds, which faired well compared to other teams. The scores for the qualifier event will be published tomorrow morning, so we'll give you all updates on the scores and our updated standing as soon as we can.

Finally, we competed in the Slalom main event, and Hydra handled very well, dispite some issues with the steering cable.

Overall, today was a great day for the team, as all of the systems worked well, with very few incidents or problems. All of the teams at the competition so far have been really helpful and supportive, and we even had some time at the end of the day to play a quick game of Ultimate Frisbee with the TCNJ (The College of New Jersey) team. We just came back from a team dinner and are looking forward to some well-deserved R&R before the main Sprint event tomorrow. We also took some video of our performance, but we will need some time to edit it and upload it when we get back to CMU, so keep an eye out for that after the competition.

We will keep you updated with the results as soon as we are able to!
- Mark

May 27, 2009

Day 1 - Arrival at Competition and Technical Inspections

Hey everyone,

Today we started the first day of the competition! We were the second team at the lake (right after the team from the Southhampton, UK!) and quickly got set up in our tent with Hydra, now nice and shiny silver.

After setup, we got our three skippers weighed in and ballasted up to the 70kg (154lbs). Riddhi netted a total of 4 ballast bags, and once again sent out the organizing staff to buy more ballast for the other teams.

For the competition our skippers will be Mike Barako, Riddhi Roy, and Robbie Wedler (below).

We even had some time between inspections to take a few trips around the area and explore the lake.

Lastly, we ended the night with an excellent dinner hosted at the University of Arkansas. After the feast, Jeff Morehouse presented the awards for best Technical Report. 1st place this year went to Elizabethtown College. We tied with University of Arkansas for 2nd/3rd place, with the difference in the judges scores only differing by 1/10th of a point. We each received 85 out of 90 possible points, with us receiving the 3rd place trophy.

Everyone did a great job this year on the technical report, and I could not be more proud of all of our team members that put so much time and effort into doing the best we could on this competitive portion of the competition.

So at the end of Day 1 we are in pretty good shape, with 1 trophy behind us already. We have 85 out of 90 possible points, and are tied with University of Arkansas for 2nd place. Tomorrow we will hopefully see the results of Qualifiers (100 total points) as well as Slalom (also 100 total points) and will be well on our way in the competition.

I am excited to see how Hydra and the rest of the crew will pull through tomorrow. Keep checking back for more updates as we post the results tomorrow night (no internet at the lake, i'm afraid)!

- Mark

May 26, 2009

Day 0 - On the road to Competition 2009!

It's that time of year again, and the CMSS crew is on their way to Fayetteville, Arkansas for Solar Splash 2009! Apologies for the lack of updates thus far, but we have been insanely busy prepping the boat for the competition (still doing some touch up coding on the ride down here). No worries though, because full coverage of the competition starts now!

The journey started this morning at 4am eastern time at the High Bay. Below is a picture of the team right before our departure (thanks to our advisor, Susan Finger, for being around at 4am to take this for us!)
Pictured standing from right to left: Riddhi Roy, David Bromberg, Jon Boerner, Alex Arteaga, Mike Barako, Andrew Moore, Austin Buchan, and Robbie Wedler. On the truck: Mark Fuge

Below is a shot of the team in the van on the way down there.
Also included a shot from the van as we passed Indianapolis.

We stopped off at Sonic for lunch, and also picked up an oar for this year's team to sign upon our return

We passed through St. Louis, right next to the Arch, and then continued on through Missouri and Arkansas

We'll be posting updates throughout the competition, so be sure to stay tuned for updates on how we are doing!

- Mark Fuge