Eric Stackpole wants every tech geek with a passion for ocean science to have inexpensive, open source hardware to conduct research. The solution that he and a team of fellow enthusiasts has developed is OpenROV—a kit of parts that easily assembles into an underwater robot. With a little help from startup funds on Kickstarter, we could soon see OpenROV scooting along, while submerged 20 meters below the surface, conducting experiments on ocean temperature flux while its creator mans the controls from a laptop above.
Scanning through Stackpole’s blog posts on the development of the OpenROV (ROV meaning Remote Operating Vehicle), it is clear that not only is he an extremely talented engineer, but that he has a true passion for collaborative work through the sharing of open information. He has posted progress note and ideas open for comment, as well as made available all of the build plans and software for creating your own OpenROV.
In exchange for giving for making all of the plans open source, the OpenROV team is asking for feedback. Forums are set up to discuss improvements, such as how as mechanism could be added to the bot to take water samples.
If you don’t have laser cutting equipment handy for creating the acrylic housing parts (designs for which are downloadable from OpenROV.com, you can pledge on Kickstarter to receive a ready-to-go assembled robot. Stackpole is looking for many people to build, use, and weigh in on how to make it better. When their Kickstarter paged reached its $22k goal in a matter of hours, it was obvious that the OpenROV team was onto a winning idea.
In kit form, OpenROV is a series of laser cut acrylic parts, connection hardware, an on-board computer, wiring, motors, an LED light, a movable webcam, and tubes that hold the 8 C-batteries needed to power the bot. When assembled, the submarine robot measures about the size of a shoebox.
The kit was designed with sustainability in mind. Laser cut parts have no metal dye tooling that is needed for injection-molded plastic. It also means that it is as easy and cost effective to make only one kit or to make one hundred. All of the other parts are stock parts bought from available an electronic supply website. With no overhead and no inventory, the OpenROV follows the model of some of our other favorite tech product kits designed by the Maker community.
OpenROV is a really exciting proposition for research in sustainability topics such as climate change or harvesting power from sea current. By making a tool that is inexpensive and has no manufacturing investment costs, this could open doors for significantly increase initiatives by scientists or even colleges students.