To improve the AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle), the team had three primary objectives:
- Correct flaws of the 2011 platform
- Reduce mission execution time
- Establish a regular test schedule
Last year, the team designed and built a whole new platform, improving each aspect of the vehicle. However, several small problems were identified in the design. The mechanical team was not satisfied with the rigidity of the frame and the glue used to hold the main hull. For the 2012 vehicle, different strategies were used to solve these issues.
The team wanted to reduce the time it takes for the submarine to execute mission tasks. To do so, two new sensors were integrated on the platform. First of all, an OPS (Object Positioning Sensor) was added under the grabber allowing the control system to be notified if an object is within reach of the grabbing mechanism. Secondly, a MSIS was added to the control system to give more precise information about the objects in the vehicle’s environment.
In order to produce a reliable submarine, regular test must be done. To do so, a regular test schedule is prepared and update as needed.
To split responsibilities between team members, three subgroups are defined within the team. The mechanical team makes sure the vehicle is watertight and adapts the vehicle for the next competitions. The electrical team designs boards that allow the control system to interface with the vehicle’s actuators and sensors. To ensure proper integration, electrical and mechanical team members must collaborate closely. The software team operates and develops the software platform. In each of these subgroups, a team leader is democratically elected at the beginning of the year. They coordinate their team members and ensure that the team’s yearly goals are reached. Moreover, a team leader and a treasurer are also elected. The team leader does management, competition logistics and global team coordination. He also communicates with the school when necessary. Finally, the treasurer manages the team budget and invoices.
Over the years, team SONIA brought together several good work practices in order to obtain a high-end platform. Many practices are applied to the whole team and each sub team has its own processes to produce quality work.
The team regularly does peer reviews to validate designs. This eliminates important integration problems and reduces errors. Also, multiple training sessions are given throughout the year to teach the inner workings of the platform to new members, making them more productive. These sessions ranged from vision system, electrical systems and software applications. Meetings are often organized to track team progress and to respond quickly to problems. Also, a rigorous test schedule is established early in the year enabling the team to deploy new submarine versions often. Pool tests are scheduled every three weeks during fall, biweekly during winter and weekly during summer. Also, during summer, tests can be performed in outdoor pools when the weather allows it.
The mechanical team designs the entire submarine using CAD (Computer-Aided Design) software. With the 3D CAD, team members can peer review the design and find problems before fabrication. Additionally, the drawing specifies the size of each electronic board allowing tight integration. It also facilitates assembly of the finished product. When necessary, strength simulations are performed on mechanical components to validate their resistance. Finally, all mechanical projects are archived on a server to keep track of revisions.
To submit quality electronic board designs to SONIA’s printed circuit board sponsors, the electrical team built a rigorous process. To naturally avoid errors, the work process to design a schematic and a board is thoroughly defined. The first step is to validate proof of concept and to test sensors by using development boards and breadboards to test circuits. Then, the schematic can be designed. At the end of this step, automated tests and peer review ensures that a maximum of mistakes are found. Then, a bill of material is drafted at that point. This ensures that all components chosen in the design can be purchased, which results in finding further mistakes before starting the drawing of the boards. Again, at the end of the board design, automated tests and peer review ensures that most flaws are found. Finally, each prototype is tested before integration in the submarine, to ensure that faulty boards do not damage the submarine. All the code and board designs are archived in a versioning and revision control system to easily distribute the work and keep a history of modifications.
In order to achieve high quality code, the software team uses a continuous integration system that quickly detects dependency and compilation errors. Team members are notified by email when a problem occurs. A bug tracker software is also used to keep track of problems, new features and team progress.
In order to promote higher education and robotics to younger students, team SONIA is involved in various community events. This year, team members presented the project to high school students at Quebec FIRST Robotics. Also, as robotics enthusiasts, team SONIA judged a primary school robotic contest.
SONIA is actively involved in the OctETS project. OctETS, for Open Collaboration Tools École de technologie supérieure, is a sharing platform for robotic teams at ÉTS. It contains a bug tracker and source code repositories to facilitate knowledge sharing.