Night manoeuvres in the swimming pool
The competition has a different focus every year and follows a certain narrative. This year’s story highlights the role that ROVs play in freshwater rivers and lakes – the natural habitat of students in Switzerland. The robot must negotiate an underwater obstacle course and demonstrate the ability to grasp objects along the course or jettison things from a container at specific points. Controlling the device from the poolside, the two pilots monitor its progress using VR headsets via cameras mounted on the robot.
One of the greatest challenges was waterproofing the robot. “Some days we were in the pool until three in the morning when the housing would suddenly start leaking. It was exhausting,” Wüst recalls. Still, not even these setbacks could dampen their enthusiasm. Another hurdle was the strict competition requirements, such as a limited power supply. But the team rose to the challenge.
However, winning is not the most important aspect for the ETH students. “The competition marks the culmination of an exciting project, and we can’t wait to exchange notes with the other teams,” Engler says. Furthermore, they want to draw on this experience as a stepping stone for their future careers. “We’ve learned a great deal about our own particular strengths,” Wüst says, adding: “It really gives you the edge in interviews if you have a project of this calibre under your belt, where interdisciplinary cooperation is key.” Each of the team members benefited from the expertise of the others.
The fascinating underwater world
For Engler, there is another crucial factor: “I’ve been fascinated by the underwater world ever since my first dive at the age of eleven,” he says, “and there’s so much down there still to discover.” After his Master’s degree, he wants to serve on a Nordic research vessel. “The ones with the big diving robots,” he grins. He is already doing the groundwork by learning Norwegian.
It seems his enthusiasm for the deep seas is infectious. “To begin with, most of us were focusing on the project. But now several are keen to do a diving course,” Wüst says. The first stop, however, is the United States. The leaks have been mended and Scubo 2.0 is already on the move, securely packed in a large metal crate. These eight young men are ready to take on the world.