No need to dip a toe in the water.
Exploring the depths of the Logan High School pool was as easy as toggling a joystick for Pari Lukwitz.
The 16-year-old Logan senior helmed a bilge-pump powered vessel through the pool while monitoring a video feed and dials on a nearby laptop. Lukwitz helped build the Logan Ranger Underwater Remote Operated Vehicle, which functions as its name promises, moving through water as it relays information to operators on the surface.
“It’s not really powerful, so it’s kind of sluggish,” Lukwitz said.
It might move slowly, but the boxy device wowed onlookers during a demonstration this week: sinking, rising, turning, moving forward or heading in reverse as Lukwitz handled the control panel. The underwater vehicle was entirely constructed and programmed by Logan students.
A similar vehicle might be used to explore lakes and rivers, with real-world applications in science and exploration, said Steve Johnston, Logan technology education teacher.
“It really gets the kids thinking outside that box,” Johnston said. “Let’s look underwater.”
Paid for by a grant of more than $1,500 from the La Crosse Public Education Foundation’s Judy and Randy Eddy Sr. Fund, the craft depends on three bilge pumps for its range of motion, with two serving as forward thrusters and the third responsible for going up and down.
Students fabricated the vehicle and modified an $11 video camera to mount on its bow. They also installed an electronic chip capable of sending directional information to a computer. Lucas Ritter, 17, programmed software to dissect information from the chip and transpose it into three red dials that tell the operator what direction the ROV is headed, as well as the vessel’s pitch and roll.
“It was really fun,” Ritter said, “working with it and being part of the whole innovation.”
The craft isn’t wireless, but can still plunge 20 to 30 feet under the surface. Dakota Thoren, 17, watched as the ROV navigated through the Logan pool.
“You get more appreciation for it, knowing how it all works,” Thoren said.
Getting the ROV working took a couple of tries, Johnston said. One of the toughest elements was ensuring the device would float to the surface if power were cut off.
Johnston taught the class that built the remote-controlled diver, PLTW-Digital Electronics. Students in the class can earn college credit from the Milwaukee School of Engineering as they learn engineering and computer programming.
Randy Eddy marveled at the engineering skills of Logan students as he watched them operate the ROV, paid for by the fund Eddy and his wife founded to help local schools.
“These kids might be doing the next trip to Mars,” Eddy said.
The Eddy fund is managed by the foundation, an nonprofit that provides financial support to district educators and students. The foundation awarded roughly $43,000 in grants during the 2013-14 school year.
Projects like the ROV build wouldn’t be possible without the support of donors like the Eddy family, Johnston said.
“The school district of La Crosse always supports innovation,” Johnston said. “We just don’t have the budget in today’s schools to do that.”