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NURC Documentary

une 28, 2007

ASU helps students achieve success 

Something wonderful is happening at Carl Hayden High School in Phoenix, and ASU has had a role in making it happen.

At least 58 Carl Hayden seniors have been admitted to ASU, including 13 of them in engineering disciplines, according to teacher Allan Cameron. Many are the first in their families to graduate from high school – and most, if not all, will be the first to attend college. The majority of students at the inner-city school are Hispanic, with limited financial means.

Eleven of the graduating seniors are in the Falcon Robotics Club, an extracurricular science and technology club that has been making headlines for the past four years, ever since their team won a national competition and beat powerhouse universities such as MIT. Two members of that original team are students at ASU, and the current team just played host to their first National Underwater Robotics Challenge in Chandler .

Cameron and his fellow teacher Fredi Lajvardi started the club to show students that engineering can be fun and exciting. Among other projects, the group creates underwater robots that take on different challenges. In the Chandler competition, teams had to remotely drive the robots underwater to the interior of a mock submarine to retrieve two “armed torpedoes” without detonation.

Suzie Kwan, an ASU recruiter and Carl Hayden alumna, has taken the club under her wing, helping them with their activities. But on a larger scale, she and Katie Sisulak, Access ASU coordinator, and others have helped change the culture at Carl Hayden, in the process making ASU a vital part of the high school community. Many ASU faculty are active with the school.

“The bottom line is that, instead of treating the kids as prospective students, they work with the students, talk to them, and get to know them by name,” Cameron says. “ASU representatives are here every week, talking to them about college, how to prepare, how to get in, how to pay for it. Our kids now feel comfortable with ASU.

“The idea of college was pretty foreign a few years ago. It was a major event in our neighborhood if someone graduates from high school. That's changed, and it's now part of our school's culture that you go to college. It's mainly ASU that's doing this.”

Sisulak says it's a misconception that high school students know what to do to prepare for college. She and Kwan bring the students information on ASU summer programs and financial aid resources, as well as presentations from ASU faculty and staff.

“ASU recognizes the talent and efforts at Carl Hayden, and we assist in the matriculation of all their students, not just the robotics team members,” Sisulak says. “Carl Hayden has made great strides in all their academic departments, and ASU is working with the teachers and administrators to bring more AP classes to the school, strengthening the preparation of the students.

“The robotics students at Carl Hayden have found wonderful mentors in Fredi and Allan. They just needed some additional resources to make that next step.”

Sarah Auffret,

(480) 965-6991

College Times Website

Deep Sea Drivers

By: Aaron Tavena

Issue date: 6/21/07 Section: Main Stories

Lorenzo Santillan has been given a crucial task.

Last year, a World War II era German submarine was found at the bottom of the ocean off the New Jersey coast – loaded with two live torpedoes. Santillan, a Phoenix College student, has been charged with figuring out how and why it’s there, and the safest route to get to the torpedoes to disarm them. To do so, he’ll use a remotely controlled underwater robot he built.

On Saturday, June 9, Santillan prepares to direct his robot to the ocean floor in hopes of learning the identity of the submarine. His ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) is a complex amalgam of wires, metals and plastics, with onboard lights and cameras as well as full motion propellers to make the journey as smooth as possible. When the preparations have been made, the ROV is lowered into the murky depths, and the mission begins.

From his command post, Santillan can observe what the camera sees, using a narrow scope to navigate down through the submarine. A crowd of professionals and note takers, including other robotics specialists and Navy men dressed in full uniform, look over his progress. Everyone is eager to see what the robot sees. But before the ROV reaches the bottom, its camera cuts out, leaving Santillan and military officials staring at only a black screen, with no clue where the machine is.

As the onlookers begin to show apprehension, Santillan quickly checks all his connections while frustratingly maneuvering his controls for the ROV. When it finally looks like the problem won’t immediately fix itself, Santillan does what he hoped he wouldn’t have to do.

He asks for a time out. 


Santillan goes to the edge of the pool at Chandler High School – site of the first ever National Underwater Robotics Challenge, held earlier this month – and fishes his ROV out of the water. Judges note Santillan’s time.

Teams from all over the region have come here for this competition to take on the same challenge as Santillan – a simulated underwater expedition meant to mirror actual events that took place.

In real life, the mysterious WWII submarine was found 60-miles off the New Jersey coast in 1991 by six divers tipped off by local fisherman. Three of the divers eventually died in what became a six-year, almost life-consuming expedition to discover the truth about the boat. Later discoveries of additional U-boats – the term used for German subs – would lead historians to realize there was far more German activity off the Eastern seaboard than originally thought. At the Chandler competition, a 20-foot creation of PVC pipe and canvas stands in for the lost German submarine. The nighttime school pool is the ocean floor.

The Underwater Robotics Challenge was designed to stimulate growth and technological skill for high school and college students interested in robotics. It is just one of several Arizona-centric robotics events with the same goals. These include First Lego, First Vex and First Robotics.  As Santillan pulls the 2-foot robot out of the water, it’s immediately clear that his creation is no less impressive than the giant man-sized excursion robots that you’d see in a typical IMAX documentary.

Santillan, who started in robotics with the local and almost legendary Carl Hayden High School team (it has beaten the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology in national competitions), is no stranger to malfunctions in robotics. There used to be more members of his team earlier this year – but now he’s swimming solo. “At the beginning I had people helping me and at the end halfway through the year, they just stopped,” Santillan says.

“All I wanted from them was for them to be there so I could teach them and teach them my past knowledge from Carl Hayden High School in robotics,” Santillan added.

His passion is obvious when he begins speaking about the technical details of his robot. “The design was already made. It was in Carl Hayden hanging around. This frame was already built so I just took it and made it better. The most things that I had to buy was two Pelican cases, silicon, glue and the battery itself.” Pelican cases are watertight cases.

Santillan lifts the hood of his ROV, revealing a “Tron”-like arrangement of wires, circuitry and flashing lights. As the judges and participants stand idly by, watching the clock as the next group prepares its own ROV across the pool, Santillan figures out the problem: it simply needs a new battery.  Santillan does a half-walk, half-sprint around the side of the pool with the purpose of finding the battery and getting back before time runs out. While he’s away, robotics judges and Navy ROTC look into the insides of Santillan’s ROV with admiration. Despite its small size and current malfunction, the robot is well-made.


Across the pool, the Women in Applied Sciences team does some final checks on their robot, which benefits from the same frame as Santillan’s ROV, but uses three cameras instead of one. That could possibly lead to three times the malfunctions, prompting numerous last-minute checks. Away from the pool, a real control room stands with over a dozen monitors recording the video feeds from the various robots throughout the night.

While the group waits, two scuba divers swim to the bottom of the submarine to make sure that the artifacts that the contestants are meant to discover remain in place. These include a set of keys and a pair of dog tags that represent important information.  Teams competing come from Arizona State University, Phoenix College, Buena High School and Chandler High School.

ASU is well represented, including the Women in Applied Sciences Team, SundevilROV @ ASU Polytechnic and ASU Robodevils. The students each have their own reason for wanting to participate in robotics. However, all the teams end up chasing the cream of the robotics crop, Carl Hayden High School.  Oscar Vasquez, an ASU student and member of the ASU Robodevils, recalls his time at Carl Hayden, fondly remembering the robotics competition that awarded Carl Hayden first place, and MIT a second place finish. The story was national news – four immigrants (both Vasquez and Santillan were on the same team) from the West Phoenix streets and their 100-pound monster of a robot, Stinky, taking down the ExxonMobil-sponsored MIT team.

 “We beat MIT by .1 points. After that, I was hooked,” on robotics, Vasquez says.


At the pool, Santillan has made it back to the loading zone without injury with a new battery in hand. Quickly replacing the battery with minutes to spare, Santillan has his own pit crew lower the robot into the pool.  With renewed vigor, the ROV descends to the bottom of the pool and glides through the submarine. With the clock ticking away, Santillan quickly calls out the artifacts he finds in the bottom of the submarine, including the keys, dog tags and torpedoes.

Carefully avoiding the plastic skeletons meant to represent human remains, Santillan surfaces his robot quickly and calmly, though the post-competition jitters and the perspiration hint that it was a tough run. “It wasn’t the pressure. It was more the running around trying to figure out what was wrong with my robot. I didn’t know what was wrong with it. My friend just looked at it, wiggled the little things here and there and that was it,” Santillan adds.  Santillan’s job well done with is rewarded with a third place finish in the challenge. A feat, considering he was on his own.

“I have three years of experience now working in robotics; I’ve built ROVs since I was a sophomore in high school,” Santillan said, hinting at how much he enjoys the work and the skill that could take him far in this business.  However, Santillan doesn’t specialize in robotics, engineering or science.

Said Santillan: “My major is culinary arts; this is just a hobby.”


Arizona State University Website

National Underwater Robotics Challenge

Submitted by jcasey on Thu, 2007-06-21 12:57. News

NURC (National Underwater Robotics Challenge), a competition designed to increase young peoples' interest in science and engineering, was held at Chandler High School, June 8-10, 2007 in Chandler, Arizona . Though a partnership between Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education (APASE) and Honeywell Hometown solutions, NURC brought science and technology educational opportunities to students of all ages across the country.

alt^I provided rich media support to facilitate a live webcast of the event. Webcasting the large competition required the use of 8 stationary underwater cameras, 1-2 cameras mounted to each robot, and a poolside camera to capture the competitors controlling their robots. The feeds from each camera were switched live and mixed with pre-recorded footage created by the teams and streamed to an auditorium where spectators could cheer for their favorite robots and listen to live play-by-play audio commentary of the competition. The video feed was mixed with the play-by-play audio and streamed online via Windows Media and Real digital encoders. Archived footage of the event can be viewed through ASU on iTunes U




State Press, ASU

Sure the iPhone is cool, but can it go underwater?

 by Tara Brite
 published on Monday, June 11, 2007

Most students only see robots on TV or in movies like "I, Robot" and "Artificial Intelligence."

But Luis Gutierrez builds them.

Gutierrez, an engineering sophomore at the Polytechnic campus, is a co-founder of Sun Devil ROV, a club that builds — and competes — with robots they build themselves.

"You don't normally learn electronics in class the way you do by actually doing it physically," he said.

That's why Gutierrez spent his first semester at ASU gathering students with his same interests to form Sun Devil ROV, and his second semester working to build a robot for the National Underwater Robotic Competition, held Saturday at Chandler High School.

Gutierrez, along with fellow ROV-er Annalisa Regalado, were both members of the robotics team at Carl Hayden High School, where they often competed in challenges like the one held Saturday.

"I thought it would be a fun experience for some of the students who haven't built a robot or gone to a competition," Gutierrez said. "We decided to form a club here so we could compete."

With about five other students, the group created Proto, an underwater robot that could be used to measure temperatures and gather items. Proto is the Greek prefix for "first," since this was the group's first robot.

Because of funding troubles and the newness of the club, the group had a little less than a month to build its robot, Regalado said.

The group's first robot looked like a box with a silver outer shell, and green pool noodles on the outside for buoyancy.

For the competition, each group had to submerge its robot in a pool, about 13 feet deep. The robot had a mission to perform, which included collecting "missiles" from the bottom of the pool. Gutierrez said this mission was much like real-life missions in the ocean to excavate ships, like the Titanic.

Marcos Garcia-Acosta, a member of Honeywell Solutions, which helped organize the competition, said the overall goal is to get more students at the high school and college level interested in the sciences.

"The objective is that the robot works," he said. "But the point is that people get interested in technology."

While the Sun Devil ROV's robot didn't do quite as well as the team had hoped (Proto made it to the bottom of the pool, but didn't complete the mission), the team was happy with the results, said Michael Earley, an engineering sophomore and ROV team member.

"It was disappointing, but exciting," he said. "We were just stoked we had a robot to compete with."

Gutierrez agreed.

"I'm pretty happy," he said. "The team got to see what we need to work on for next year."




Ira A. Fulton School Of Engineering, ASU

Remote control: Female team will test engineering skills in robotics competitions

Jun 04, 2007

Inside an Arizona State University lab, a group of female engineering students gathers around a piece of complex equipment. They connect wires and cameras, and program a control system to take their underwater robot, named “Aurora,” to new depths.

The 10-member team has been building the underwater remote-operated vehicle (ROV) for almost seven months and is now putting together the final pieces in preparation for two intense underwater robotic competitions this summer.

The team was assembled by the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering’s Women in Applied Science and Engineering (WISE) Program to promote hands-on engineering experience and enhance classroom learning, says Shawna Fletcher-Carey, senior student services coordinator for WISE.

“I am passionate about expanding opportunities for women to participate in extracurricular engineering activities,” she says. “Ultimately, these kinds of projects led to increased student retention.”

The WISE underwater robotics team has received financial support from Intel Corp., which donated $5,000 and from Alliant Techsystems, a Minnesota-based supplier of munitions and rocket engines, which donated $3,000.

The team was also assisted by engineers from Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies Inc., which provided free technical consulting services to help the students design and build their ROV’s robotic arm. Adventure Hobbies, a local business, also made in-kind contributions, supplying the team with batteries, propellers, epoxy and other items needed to build the robot.

In addition to forming the WISE underwater robotics team, in the past year Fletcher-Carey also worked with several local schools and organizations – including Carl Hayden High School, Chandler High School and Arizona’s Si Se Puede Foundation – to establish the Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education (APASE) initiative.

The group established an annual underwater robotics competition in Chandler for students of all ages. This year, Hometown Solutions, a community outreach program of Honeywell International Inc., will sponsor the National Underwater Robotics Challenge, June 8-10 at Chandler High School.

The robotics challenge’s inaugural year will see nine university, community college and high school teams participate. The competition’s mission is based on the story of a German submarine that sank during World War II and was discovered years later, lying 70 meters below the New Jersey shoreline.

Each student team will simulate the discovery and use their robots to race to retrieve artifacts and take critical measurements in a “salvage and identification operation” that will require the use of live camera-feed from their robot, special underwater lights and a working robotic arm.

Student teams will also complete a technical paper and participate in an oral presentation to explain the design, construction and operation of their ROVs.

After competing at Chandler High School, the WISE team will head to Newfoundland, Canada to compete in the sixth annual International Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center ROV Competition. Organized by the center and the U.S.-based Marine Technology Society’s ROV Committee, the competition will be June 22-24 at Memorial University and the Institute for Ocean Technology in Newfoundland, Canada.

Twenty-three teams from several countries, including the United States, Canada, Hong Kong, Spain, Scotland and Pakistan that have won regional robotics competitions, will compete in the Ranger class in the international event. The Ranger class is open to middle school students, high school students, home-schooled students and community colleges or technical schools competing for the first time.

The more advanced Explorer class is open to community colleges, technical colleges and universities. This year, 20 teams from across the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Iran will compete under this category. Explorer teams do not have to participate in regional competitions to be eligible for the international competition.

The team’s trip has been financed by the Phoenix chapter of Soroptimist International, a national club dedicated to the advancement of women. The organization selected the WISE ROV program as its annual grant recipient to support women and girls in the sciences.

“A major goal of our organization is to increase female participation in the areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” says Soroptimist member Stacey Haggart.

Participating in two different competitions with the same robot, the WISE team was challenged with building an ROV that can perform a wide array of tasks. The Canadian competition, for instance, will require that the robot operate in a polar environment for its staged underwater missions.

Despite the challenges of designing and building a robot as a team, the process was worth it, says team leader Katie Anderson, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering.

“Being able to put what you’ve learned in school to use is the best feeling ever,” she says. “Sometimes classroom examples can seem ridiculous until you watch the principles in action. You can sit around talking about gravity all day, but until you see an apple fall it wouldn’t make any sense.”

For more information about the WISE ROV team contact Shawna Fletcher-Carey with Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at or (480) 965-5837.

Writer: Deanna Evans


Media Contact: Joe Kullman




Arizona Republic

Robots go underwater Saturday at Chandler High

Ray Parker
The Arizona Republic
Jun. 7, 2007 01:54 PM

The mission involves retrieving armed torpedoes from a German U-boat circa World War II.

The players include Chandler, Buena and Carl Hayden high school students, along with others from Arizona State University. And their equipment to accomplish the task? Handmade underwater robots.

This weekend kicks off the first Honeywell Hometown Solutions' National Underwater Robotics Challenge, which will be held at Chandler High's Aquatic Center.
The competition resulted from several groups coming together so local students could beef up on their science and technical skills.

"We're attracting a lot of kids deemed at-risk that otherwise would not be involved in science and technology," said Alberto Esparza, who founded the nonprofit Si Se Puede Foundation, which has helped more than 1,800 Chandler students since 1992.

The scenario for the competition revolves around actual happenings.

In 1991, professional diver John Chatterton discovered a sunken German U-boat, lying just 60 miles off the New Jersey shore. It included unexploded torpedoes and the submarine's crew.

This weekend, the nine competing teams will be asked to perform a series of tasks including retrieving without detonating the surviving torpedoes, and disposing of them in a detonation chamber.

They will also retrieve any artifacts that will help identify crewmembers, among other challenges.

"The objective of this competition is to give students a chance to work with their mentors," Esparza said. "Our country is suffering a shortage of technical talent and we feel this effort will be our contribution to reverse that trend."

Arizona State University students also will be involved, allowing high school students to interact with those in college.

"A competition of this type in Arizona will serve as a catalyst to encourage more teachers and students to become involved in applied science and engineering projects," said Shawna Fletcher, coordinator for the ASU Women in Applied Science and Engineering (WISE) Program.

The teams will bring their remotely controlled vehicles to the competition that will involve more than just technical skills.

"Competitors will be evaluated in several aspects, not only completion of the mission, but also delivery of a written technical report and oral presentation, among other elements," said Fredi Lajvardi, chief technology officer for the organization hosting the competition, Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education.

The group's mission is to position Arizona as a national leader in robotics technology and engineering education.

Those interested can log onto the competition Web site:




Sierra Vista Herald

Buena’s robot makers rule the state

By Cindy Skalsky                       


Published on Tuesday, June 12, 2007

SIERRA VISTA — The Nifty Engineering Robotics Design Squad of Buena High School made a big splash in Chandler over the weekend when six of its members took both first place in the high school division and the Overall Event Winner trophies at the first Honeywell Hometown Solutions National Underwater Robotics Challenge.

Hosted by Chandler High School, the three-day event brought together three university, one junior college and five high school teams.

Gary Forbes holds “The Tacky Sponge,” an underwater robot built by himself and his fellow Buena High School students. The robot received top honors in last weekend’s statewide competition. (Photo courtesy of Faridodin Lajvardi)
Buena’s score topped them all.

“We only put the kit together about three weeks ago,” said Kevin Forbes, who with teammate and twin brother Gary was part of the victorious Buena group. “We built it in our garage at home, and our neighbors let us test it in their swimming pool. We could walk over.”

The six NERDS plunged into the deep end to fulfill a detailed mission based on an actual German submarine that sank with its crew and its discovery off the coast of New Jersey. The true story was the subject of a Nova documentary called “Hitler’s Lost Sub.”

Students assembled their remotely-operated vehicles and were asked to accomplish seven tasks:

• Retrieve two “armed” torpedoes without detonating them

• Retrieve any artifact that would identify any crew member

• Locate the sonic pinger used to mark the sub’s location and decipher its coded message

• Retrieve the sub’s identification plaque

• Measure the depth of the top of the blast opening that sank the sub

• Measure the temperature of the volcanic vent that the sub landed on when it sank

• Place a commemorative plaque on the deck next to the blast opening

The competition was held in the school’s Olympic-sized pool that contained a 30-foot “submarine” that had been built for the occasion.

And because the sub was supposedly lying at a depth of 914.4 meters, there would be, for all practical purposes, zero light.

So the competition was held after dark.

“I think we competed at about 11:30 Saturday night,” Kevin said.

Prior to their trip to Phoenix, the team was able to perform additional pre-testing of their robot (named “The Tacky Sponge”) at The Cove, where pool depth more closely approximated what they’d experience in Chandler.

The NERDS’ coach, Buena teacher Tom Heller, said he was only involved in a part of the testing process and that “those kids are incredibly resourceful.” On Friday night, they came to the conclusion that the low-energy LED light on their ‘bot wasn’t bright enough, so they went to a local hardware store in Phoenix, bought another light and encased it in epoxy.

“Water is a different medium,” Heller commented. “Things move differently. They had to waterproof their electronics.”

With 207.3 points (teams are scored on the Mission, a Meet & Greet, Technical Report, Oral Presentation, Web site and a Team Intro Video), the NERDS outperformed even the first place university team — the ASU Robo Devils from Arizona State University in Tempe, who finished with 164.4 points.

“I was concerned about the college teams,” said Gary Forbes. “We’re used to competing with teams at our same age level.”

His twin allowed that the university teams weren’t quite as good as he thought they would be.

Their older brother Steve, a mechanical engineering major at the University of Arizona, served as mentor for the Buena students’ first foray into underwater robotics and hopes to start a UA robotics team when he returns to school as a sophomore in the fall.

The event was the first of its kind and was organized by a consortium of groups united under the acronym APASE — for Arizona Promoters of Applied Science in Education. The Sierra Vista contingent agreed that the competition, especially for a first effort, was extremely well-run and impressive. The organizers believe it will be even bigger and better next year.

“We’re building a coalition of professors, corporations and industry leaders who want Arizona to be seen as pioneering a high-tech infrastructure,” said Faridodin Lajvardi — a co-host of the event and known as “Coach Fredi” of the successful Carl Hayden High School robotics team in Phoenix.

Carl Hayden High, who scored 233.65 points last weekend and in the past has beaten the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at robotics competitions, participated last weekend strictly as an exhibition team.

The low-key Forbes brothers believe that the Buena NERDS spent less money than any of the other teams involved.

“I think we spent about $400,” said Kevin. “I heard that Carl Hayden spent $17,000. We pay attention to cost-effectiveness.”

Members of the winning National Underwater Robotics Challenge team from Buena are Daniel Bond, Gary Forbes, Kevin Forbes, Matthew Houston, Alex Topping and Sean Topping.

Both trophies await placement in Buena’s Academic Trophy case.

“I have to find someone to unlock it,” said Coach Heller.

Herald/Review reporter Cindy Skalsky can be reached at 515-4611 or at




East Valley Tribune

June 10, 2007
Chandler robotics team dives into national meet
By Jill Redhage

Roberto Mancera raced with his coach up to Chandler High School's robotics classroom just before 9 p.m. Saturday to rummage through used circuitry. "I think we fried one (controller circuit) and lent one to another team," coach Sam Alexander said.

"As far as the OI goes, I don't think it matters, does it?" asked Mancera, the robotics team captain.

About 90 minutes before the team was to launch its alumnimumand-plastic robot into the school's pool during the National Underwater Robotics Challenge, the robot's controller had broken. If the students didn't figure out how to fix it - and quickly - then they would be out of the running.

The competition had a mission: Send your robot underwater equipped to view a submarine's identification numbers and the dog tags of "dead bodies." Include a means by which to move "torpedoes" to a safe detonation area.

Chandler's team, Wolfgang Robotics, had been ready to compete against the eight other Arizona teams, before its recent problem.

Dominic Lopez installed the vertical lift, so the robot could move up and down. Mancera assembled the electronics. Aaron Vasquez handled the side-to-side movement and sealed the circuitry.

Nathan Fritz and Josh Williams were set to move the robot safely in and out of the water. Scott Cooper prepared to translate the Morse code emitted by the submarine's sonic pinger. Eric Dressler played task manager.

In about two months and with about $1,000, the team had crafted the aluminum cube frame, which supported a waterproof plastic box of circuits and cameras, four 12-volt batteries with LED lights and a torpedo-scooping hook. The boys were poised to compete for the trophy.

"I'm pretty nervous about getting this finished," Mancera said, though he appeared calm.

It's the first year of the challenge, and while the high school and college competitors said they enjoy it for the competition and the chance to learn robotics, Alexander and the other organizers see the event as guiding Arizona's future.

"Eighty percent of the U.S. economy is based on science and mathematics," Alexander said. "We need to get engineers and inventors into the field," he said.

The challenge, sponsored by Honeywell, continued until 2 a.m. today, and results will be announced this afternoon. 



East Valley Tribune Oct 31, 2006 Click Here


Chandler Republic Nov. 3, 2006 Click Here


Arizona Republic Nov. 8, 2006 Click Here