If you want to make a submersible robot (or, really, any robot) you can either design it for a specific mission, or you can try to make it general purpose. The researchers at the Cura Oceanus Foundation opted for the latter approach with RiverBot, a community-designed unmanned submersible.
Comparing it to the Space Shuttle, the RiverBot has payload bays that accept sensor kits or custom-made payloads. The builders hope to provide a platform for students and others and want to have students start with RiverBot in middle school, and keep working with the program all the way up to the PhD level.
Current projects center on environmental studies of water. The device uses software based on AUV Workbench, and investigators can use it to help create mission plans. The video below shows the foundation’s CEO [Ahmed Abdelkhalek] talking about the project’s goals and conducting their first open water test. According to their web site, they will not charge K-12 schools and homeschoolers for missions, other than travel expenses, if necessary.
We thought it was cool that the 3D modeling expert that designed the RiverBot frame is a local high school student. Their design files are available on a separate page, and will eventually move to GitHub.
Of course, this isn’t the first underwater vehicle we’ve talked about, and we shouldn’t be surprised at smart students doing interesting things underwater.