February 2, 2021
Computers, robots, circuits: that is Dan-Andrei Corbeanu's world. The 22-year-old is studying Electrical and Computer Engineering at Jacobs University Bremen. Electronics is also an important part of his spare time: Dan-Andrei developed his own underwater robot for a competition in October 2020. The experts from the Canadian IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society quickly realized what was presented to them: an unusual concept worthy of a prize. The student's design was awarded first place in the renowned organization's Student Poster Competition.
The robot should be inexpensive, remote-controlled, easy to operate, capable of diving at least nine meters deep, and able to do so for a period of twelve hours – these were just some of the requirements of the international competition. Dan-Andrei was made aware of the competition by Francesco Maurelli, Professor of Marine Systems at Jacobs University.
Dan-Andrei had never designed an underwater robot before. But he was convinced: It would be fun and he would learn a lot. "I thought I could make it work, so I gave it a try," he explained. In his spare time, he set to work. He used second-hand electronic components, produced others with a 3D printer and programmed the software. In the end, he had installed material worth less than 800 euros. "For an underwater robot, that's extremely cheap," he pointed out.
"Blue Duck II", as the model is called, dives up to ten meters deep. Its camera eye can be used to observe the underwater world, and it can also be used for educational purposes. "Thinking about how something is supposed to be, then building it with your limited knowledge until it eventually works is cool," said Dan-Andrei, describing his enthusiasm for robot building.
Electronics is what fascinates him most about this. "It is my hobby, it is my passion!", he said. It was already like that back in his school days at the prestigious International Computer High School of Bucharest. His preference for circuits and microcontrollers – very small computers applied to a chip – also played an important role when he chose where to study. "My parents encouraged me to study abroad. What interested me about Bremen was the aerospace and aviation industry and, of course, Jacobs University with its international, English-language program and great campus."
Dan-Andrei represented his high school at several international competitions. That was when he first came into closer contact with people from other cultures, and he also values this exchange at Jacobs University. "It makes a difference whether you spend time with fellow students who have similar ideas as you or whether you meet people with completely different ideas. That opens up entirely new perspectives." To him, it is a little bit like cooking – when friends prepare previously unknown dishes.
For about three years, Dan-Andrei has enjoyed the diverse exchange at Jacobs University. He was vice president of the Engineering Club, one of the many student clubs on campus, founded the Engineering Society, and, of course, his bachelor's thesis deals with his passion of electronics. It is very likely that he will stay in Bremen after completing his studies in order to do his master's degree here and possibly his doctorate later on.
Participating in the competition was a first step towards research. For Dan-Andrei that's not enough: "I definitely want to learn more about automation, robotics and electronics," he said. By the way, Dan-Andrei invested the 350 euros he received as prize money in the form of Amazon vouchers in his computer. It urgently needed a new processor.
This text is part of the series "Faces of Jacobs", in which Jacobs University introduces students, alumni, professors and staff. Further episodes can be found at www.jacobs-university.de/faces.