By Haley Sawyer
The pool outside Jessica Arlett’s condo is filled with PVC pipes, pingpong balls and netting. A square robot putters around the pool’s floor. But with Jessica serving as the South Pasadena Aquatics Robotics Klub’s adviser, the homeowner association hasn’t given her any grief.
“I’ve been coaching these various robotics teams for years,” Jessica said, “so my neighbors are kind of used to me having weird things going on.”
This year, SPARK is using a residential pool for high-level competition. It’s preparing for the Marine Advanced Technology Education Remotely Operated Vehicle Competition world championships early in August.
This year’s regional championships, which are typically held in Long Beach, were canceled in May because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the South Pasadena group was still able to qualify for the world championships by submitting a 15-minute uncut video of its hand-built ROV completing the necessary tasks.
The world championships are being held in Tennessee, but SPARK has opted to compete remotely. It’ll send another video of the ROV finishing a series of tasks that mimic real-world robotics situations, like rebuilding a “coral reef” made of PVC pipes — which explains the items present at the condo pool.