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Let us tell you the exciting story of the AVBotz robotics team and their preparation for the RoboSub Competition 2015, retold from the perspective of the club president – Brody West.


brody west avbotz image

Brody is a 17 year old rising senior at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, California, but during the summer break he spends most of his time in his garage, working on an autonomous submarine with his team, the AVBotz. He describes himself as a full-time robotics junkie and he works on the project with a 30 like-minded individuals from his school.



Each summer, for the last 18 years, the tech world holds its breath for the the start of an epic competition called RoboSub. Co-sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR), the goal of this college-level competition is to advance the development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) by challenging a new generation of engineers to perform realistic missions in an underwater environment.  The event also serves to foster ties between young engineers and the organizations developing AUV technologies.

The competition starts in few days and this time, Brody and his team, are confident that their AUV Barakuda is going to outperform the competition.

barracuda submarine AVBOTZ

At the end of this interview, Brody reveals one of their severely kept secrets and a weapon that gives them confidence that they are going to win 1st place at RoboSub 2015.

But first, here are some of the best practices the team used in the process and the challenges they faced.

It all started with

Brody’s search for solutions to raise his personal productivity

I discovered Swipes back in 2014. I am not overstating the impact that Swipes has had when I say that it has profoundly improved the way I live my life.

My life is very complicated: I have to constantly juggle school work, lacrosse, AVBotz and personal business. Before Swipes, tasks constantly slipped through the cracks for me. I had no centralized location for task management, and I didn’t want to revert to the Stone Age with a pen and paper.

I found Swipes while looking for a design inspiration for an app I was blueprinting. Swipes had been featured on Creative Bloq. I downloaded the app and fell in love with its ease of use and functionality. Swipes has totally overhauled my workflow. Now I work through an organized, rolling agenda one swipe at a time.

Brody tells us a bit about his robotics team:

For the past year, AVBotz has operated out of my garage, which is currently overflowing with electrical equipment, zip ties, and pizza boxes. “Barry” (from Barracuda) is designed to complete a number of real-world obstacles, including hitting buoys, passing through a gate, dropping steel bearings, and navigating towards an underwater pinger, all without input from an external controller.

At the same time:

Coordinating 30 People was AVBotz’s Biggest Challenge

AVBotz Team

AVBotz is a large team, composed of thirty contributing members. The members are split into four subdivisions: mechanical, software, electrical, and public relations.

Workflow used to be terrible, because there were so many members and no centralized repository of tasks. I could not keep track of thirty people that were all working towards different objectives. Members would often waste time working on the same task as other members without knowing it, working on tasks that other members were better suited to work on, or sitting around not knowing what to do.

AVBotz’s Secret Weapon to Win RoboSub 2015

Here’s what Brody reveals about the big challenge they’ve taken on and why he thinks AVBotz is going into RoboSub this year more prepared than ever before.

In February, I realized that Swipes, the app I had been using for months to manage my personal agenda, was the perfect solution to the team’s workflow problems. I made a common Swipes account, and gave access to everyone.

With Swipes, every person became his or her own captain, but under the unifying dynamic of improving Barracuda. We set up each task with two tags: the subdivision tag, and the personal tag. The creator of the task, which can be any member, assigns the task to one of the subdivisions. Then, team members get the opportunity to claim the task by using their personal tag. The struggle between autonomy and collaboration was resolved.

It was really inspiring to hear Brody’s story of his productivity journey and that of the AVBotz team. They are a true example of how age is not a factor when it comes to undertaking complex projects and how it is all about your inner motivation and desire to succeed, that drives your towards the achievements in your life.

There will always be issues that hinder our progress and various challenges which we have to face head on, but as long as you believe in yourself and the people around you, there is always a way.

We wish the AVBotz team all the best for the upcoming competition!

Here’s what you can do next

1) Follow AVBotz: You can follow AVBotz on Twitter @AVBotz to see how they do at the competition next week, or visit their website.

2) Check out the RoboSub 2015 Competition website

3) Try Swipes out yourself for iOS and Android

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