BEAUMONT, Texas – Three Lamar University student-athletes were members of another team at LU this past year as they helped design and build the university’s first underwater robot.

Koby Couron and Brannon Beaton of the LU football team along with LU baseball player Brent Janak were part of an eight-person unit that created the robot for their senior project in mechanical engineering. Other members of the team were Nicole Ray, Ryan Fregia, Christian Dao, Quade Robertson and Rashaan Webster.

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“It was my favorite thing I’ve done academically at LU,” Couron said.  “Our professors were really impressed. It was a huge learning process, but it was a blast.”

The robot, which was designed and built from scratch, finished fourth out of 20 entries at a competition in San Jacinto, Texas. It was the first time a team from LU entered the competition.

“We didn’t know what to expect,” Couron said. “A lot of the schools had entered teams for a number of years. I’m very proud of coming in fourth.”

During the competition, teams maneuvered their robot to perform tasks akin to repairing an oil rig at sea. The person maneuvering the robot could not see the robot, but was looking at live images from a camera on the robot that were on a computer monitor.

“We used an Xbox controller,” Couron said. “We all had experience with playing Xbox, so that made it easier.”

However, it was not all fun and games for the team members, who spent countless hours on the project.

“It’s a full-year project,” Couron said. “We designed it in the fall and built in the spring. As it was getting closer to completion, there were some days where we weren’t getting out until 3 a.m. The toughest part wasn’t the programming, it was the electrical wiring. We had about 40 to 50 wires of all different colors in that waterproof tube.”

When it came time to test their robot, the team used the LU pool on a few occasions along with pools at residential complexes.

"We’re proud that we’ve been successful in both athletics and academics,” Couron said.
Lamar Athletics
"We’re proud that we’ve been successful in both athletics and academics,” Couron said.
“More than a few people gave us strange looks when we put it in the pool,” Couron said. “I know a few people were afraid to get into the water.”

Couron noted that the project was so well received that two LU teams want to do the project next year.

“I think that is great that two teams want to do this project,” Couron said. “I hope they can go ahead and win the competition in the future.”

And while Couron and his teammates didn’t win the grand prize, they all got what they hoped for – an A on their project. It’s also a great thing to put on a résumé, which is what Couron did as he searches for a job in the mechanical engineering field.

“It’s something people notice and want to talk about,” Couron said. “I know this experience will pay off.”

Couron graduated this spring with a 3.689 grade-point average, while Beaton graduated with a 3.115 GPA. Janak, who has a 3.69 GPA, is on track to graduate this summer.

“We’re proud that we’ve been successful in both athletics and academics,” Couron said. “It isn’t easy to do both, but it’s definitely worth it.”