Adelaide Show robotics competition launching businesses and interest from defence


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By David Russell

This year’s Adelaide Show will play host to a battle set to launch robotics innovators of the future. Teams of kids from around Adelaide will be showcasing their underwater submersible vehicles, called SeaPerch Submarines, in a large water tank in the Show’s Technology Centre.

And while the participants in the eLabtronics STEMSEL Inventors Exhibition and Competition may be young, these subs aren’t child’s play.

“One University of South Australia student, Richards David, who started at the Show three year’s ago, launched STEMSEL India with the support of StudyAdelaide while he was still studying,” STEMSEL Foundation CEO Peng Choo told Inside South Australia.

“Richards now employs 10 engineers and managers in his company.

“The US Navy has also sponsored the SeaPerch program in schools using the South Australian STEMSEL control system.”

One of the SeaPerch systems complete with South Australian STEMSEL controllers.

One of the SeaPerch systems complete with South Australian STEMSEL controllers.

Members of the public will also have the chance to take over the students’ controllers and drive the devices. One of the students involved is Heath Eickhoff from the Hallett Cove STEMSEL Inventors Club team. He won the Best Exhibit title in the STEMSEL Robotics competition at the 2013 Royal Adelaide Show. As part of the prize he was able to attend a robotics event in Singapore, where he learned about the SeaPerch submarines and brought the knowledge back to Adelaide.

Heath’s dad, Don, said the SeaPerch subs are built by students using readily available parts, and mainly constructed with PVC plumbing pipe and fittings.

“The motors are 12volt hobby motors that are waterproofed with wax in old 35mm film canisters, and they are connected to a controller with a cat5 data cable,” he said.

“The original US design used a simple switch control box that the students put together, however the STEMSEL Inventors are putting together control boxes with microprocessors that have been programmed by the students inside to improve ROV control.

“The SeaPerches are designed to be modified and improved over time to perform different tasks.”

The STEMSEL Inventors Club Hallett Cove is hoping to send a team to America next year to compete in a national Sea Perch competition, and is hoping to generate enough interest in a larger scale program here, possibly leading to a competition at Flinders University in late 2016.

“So far we have tested the SeaPerches and run through obstacle courses at Flinders University’s testing tank at their new facility in Tonsley,” Don said.

“We look forward to sharing them with the public at the Royal Adelaide Show.”

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The AEEC, home to the Royal Adelaide Show, is a member of Brand South Australia.

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