Power Electronics

NiZn Battery Powers Student ROV To Victory

PowerGenix, a developer of high-rate discharge, rechargeable nickel-zinc (NiZn) batteries, announced that its batteries contributed to the award-winning design of an underwater remote operated vehicle (ROV) at the national Fourth Annual ROV Competition held at the NASA Johnson Space Center’s Neutral Buoyancy Lab. The small but powerful PowerGenix NiZn battery allowed for the primary power source to be placed onboard the ROV, eliminating the need for bulky wires and cords between a land-based power source and the ROV.

This unique design, honored with the Innovation in Engineering Award, gave the ROV increased maneuverability when competing in a series of timed underwater missions at the three-day event sponsored by the Marine Advanced Technology Education (MATE) Center, held recently in Houston. High school juniors Juan Batiz-Benet, Michael MacIntyre, Nicholas Prsha and Dominic Schmied, who designed the ROV, were judged on the technical merits of their creation as well as on an engineering presentation, in-depth technical report and poster display. Recognized with five awards – more than any of the other 26 competing teams in its division, the team was honored for its innovative design implementation, subject matter expertise and preparedness.

Due in large part to the onboard power source design, the team clocked impressive times in two of the three missions. The students maneuvered their ROV through a series of complicated timed tasks – determined by MATE as part of the “Underwater Olympics” event theme – utilizing a remote-controlled airplane controller, donated video cameras from DeepSea Power & Light and a moveable claw. In less than five minutes per simulated mission, the ROV had to cap an oil well in the Gulf of Mexico, repair a damaged fiber optic cable connection to re-establish a communications link and install a new instrument module on the Hubble space telescope.

As one of the only ROVs in its division with onboard power and a smooth-action tether management system using a single coaxial cable, the students were presented with a number of awards including the Innovation in Engineering Award (“Sharkpedo” Award for the Most Innovative Design Approach). Photos of the ROV project can be found at: public.fotki.com/ROVUSDHS2005/rov_2005. For more information on MATE and the competition, see www.marinetech.org/rov_competition.

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