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Professional Level: Deep Sea Rescue

Created by: Wallace Council


Oh no! An unexpected whirlpool has caused a research submarine to crash into the ocean floor. The submarine crew has to be saved, or they won’t make it to the surface. Using your smaller, remote submarine you must deliver oxygen to the crew at the ocean floor and assist them to the surface. If only it were that easy . . . ocean currents will move the oxygen tanks, fishing nets entangle the tanks and prevent them from going all the way to the ocean floor, and hungry sharks wait above the divers. To successfully rescue the divers, you must do more than just deliver oxygen tanks and bring the crew to the surface. You must scare off sharks so that the divers aren’t eaten, navigate across waves and through ocean currents, and prevent the crew from getting the bends.


The rescue submarine begins operation at the ocean surface (top level of the playing field) in the staging zone (top level). The crew only has seven minutes of air, so they must be rescued within six minutes. Four additional tanks of oxygen (oxygen tanks are regulation 38 mm ping pong balls, filled with 15 grams of fine sand) are floating on buoys scattered about the ocean surface. These tanks must be delivered across the choppy ocean surface to a designated drop zone. Be sure not to descend into the ocean before you deliver the oxygen tanks! The tanks snag on a fishing net before making it all the way to the ocean bottom, so they must be brought to a new drop zone. (the nets are just the shaved out catch bin on the middle level) There are sharks waiting in this area above the divers. You must remove the sharks from the rescue zone, or they will eat the divers as the divers come to the surface (push them completely through the walls and off the course). Once you reach the ocean floor, all that remains is to rescue the divers. The four stranded divers are waiting next to the submarine to be rescued. The submarine is the foam-core ship on the bottom level - the rest of the bottom level is the ocean floor. The divers are the same as the oxygen tank ping-pong balls but with markings to differentiate them. For each oxygen tank that you manage to deliver to the ocean floor through the designated drop zones, the crew has an additional 15 seconds of air to survive on. There are four ping-pong balls as the oxygen tanks, and for each one that makes it into the submarine,you get a 15 second time extension. You must be careful rescuing the divers. If you return them to the surface too quickly they will get the bends, so you must pause for at least fifteen seconds halfway through the ascent. If you failed to remove sharks from the rescue zone, some of the divers you are rescuing will be eaten. For every two sharks remaining, one diver is lost. If you successfully return the divers to the surface, then you have lived up to your title of Rescue Robot.

To operate the elevator, there is a single touch sensor on the outside edge of the elevator. When the touch sensor is pressed, a light will come on and a judge (or course official) has 20 seconds to manually move the elevator from one level to the next level. After 20 seconds, the light will turn off signifying the offical should have completed moving the elevator to the proper level. The sequence is top level to middle level, middle level to bottom level, bottom level to middle level, and middle level to top level, in that order.

Bill of Materials:

Building the “Deep Sea Rescue” Course


Please understand that this course is extremely complex, and you may not have the tools or expertise necessary to build some components. Thus, the course has been separated into portions that we suggest you attempt to build, and portions that we strongly discourage you from attempting.

The suggested portion of this course includes all three levels (including walls), the elevator platform, and the playing pieces. Some aspects of these suggested portions are dimensioned using reference values (these are the values that we used, but they have minimal effect on game play). All other components of the course (i.e. the frame, elevator mechanism) are not necessary for practicing.

Suggested Supplies:

  • (2) sheets of 1” X 4’ X 8’ pressed insulation foam
  • (1) ¼” X 20” X 30” foamcore
  • (8) 38 mm regulation ping-pong balls
  • 120 grams of fine sand
  • (100) sheets of legal size printer paper
  • (1) Roll of Duct Tape

Optional Supplies:

  • (5) 3/8” by 48” dowel rods
  • (1) roll of nylon string
  • (2) 1” X 2” X 6’ boards
  • (1) MINDSTORMS RCX controller
  • (1) Touch Sensor
  • (1) LEGO electronic connector

Suggested Tools:

  • Exacto Knife
  • Hot glue gun
  • Scissors
  • Hot Wire Foam Cutter
    Although a hot wire foam cutter isn’t necessary, it makes construction easier and makes for a much higher quality cut. Any cutting knife may be substituted if a foam cutter is not available.

Step 1: Cut both 4’ X 8’ foam sheets into two 4’ X 4’ pieces. Three of these become the floors of each level. The fourth will be used for walls, sharks, and understructure.

Step 2: Cut the elevator shaft into 3 of the 4’ X 4’. Cut approximately ¼” of excess into each shaft to provide clearance for the elevator. Retain one of the 15” X 15” cutouts for the base of the elevator.

Step 3: Use the foam-cutter to make the periphery cutouts for the walls into two of the levels. These levels will become the upper and middle levels. Refer to the drawings for placement of the cutouts. These dimensions are for reference; just ensure that your walls line up with these cutouts.

Step 4: Using the fourth 4’ X 4’ foam sheet, cut out two (2) sets of walls. Retain the scrap cut-outs for use in making the sharks. More will need to be retained if you are building the full structure for use as understructure support.

Step 5: Cut the features into the top level. Begin by cutting the square hole, and then cut the delta shaped roughness. Finish by cutting the slots for the rescue ship.

Step 6: Cut the features into the middle level. Cut the hole leading to the bottom level first. Then cut the catch bin under the hole in the top level. The catch bin should not be cut all the way through, but a half inch deep. Chamfer the edges at 45o after it has been cut.

Step 7: Cut the features into the bottom level. Cut the slots to match the tabs in the submarine. Cut tabs into the elevator base for its wall, and holes for the dowel rod guides (used in the full course).

Step 8: Using the sheet of foam-core, cut out two sets of walls for the submarine and rescue ship. The remainder of the foam-core should be cut into five (5) fifteen inch (15 in) long strips.

Step 9: Place the exterior walls into their tabs in the top and middle levels, as well as the back wall of the elevator – ensuring that the bottom of the walls are level with the bottom of each level. Then place the rescue ship and submarine walls into place. Tape these into place, ensuring that duct-tape is not placed in areas that robots can access.

Step 10: Cover each level of the course with printer paper, with an overlap of approximately ¼” to ½”. Glue the paper down.

Step 11: Use black electric tape to place the lines onto each level of the course. Using a pencil, mark lines three inches (3 in) to each side of the electric tape. This zone will be left undecorated. The remainder of the course may be decorated using markers.

Step 12: Use a punch or drill to make a small hole in the eight (8) ping pong balls. Fill each ping-pong ball with fifteen grams (15 g) of fine sand, and fill the hole with hot glue. Sand the surface smooth.

Step 13: Using some of the excess foam (reserved from making the walls), cut eight (8) 5” X 1.5” strips. Shave four (4) of these strips to half an inch thick (0.5 in). Using a hot glue gun, glue one 1 in thick piece to one ½ in thick piece, to make a 1.5” X 1.5” X 5” block.

Step 14: Mark the location of the touch sensor for the elevator. Your course is now done, unless you’re building the full version of the course.

Additional materials for the full course:

  • (13) ¾” PVC pipes 5’ lengths
  • (8) ¾” PVC elbows
  • (16) ¾” PVC tees
  • (2) 1” X 2” X 6’ length of wood

Building the Frame:

Step 1: Cut each 6’ length 1” X 2” to a 5’ length.

Step 2: Using a 3/8” drill bit, drill two holes into each end of the board. These holes should be centered along the 1” dimension, and each should be centered 3/8” from each edge on the 2” dimension.

Step 3: Cut eight (8) short sections of dowel rod (approximately 1.5 inches long) and glue one into each hole. This completes the cross-support beams for the frame.

Step 4: Cut twelve (12) 5’ PVC pipes to 42 inch lengths.

Step 5: Of the remainder, cut (12) 14.5” lengths of pipe.

Step 6: Cut four (4) pieces of PVC to approximately 3 inch lengths.

Step 7: Cut four (4) pieces of PVC to approximately 6 inch lengths.

Step 8: Using two (2) of the 42” length PVC pipes and a 3/8” drill, drill a pair of holes to match those drilled into the wood through one wall of the PVC. The top hole in the pair should be centered 13 7/8” from the bottom of the PVC pipe. A third hole should be drilled through both walls in line with the other two measured at 29 1/8” from the bottom of the PVC.

Step 9: Using two (2) of the 42” length PVC pipes and a 3/8” drill, drill a single hole measured at 14 1/8” through both walls. Drill a pair of holes through one wall of the PVC to match those drilled into the wood through one wall of the PVC, with the top hole measured at 28 7/8”.

Step 10: Using two (2) of the 42” length PVC pipes and a 3/8” drill, drill holes through one wall of the PVC located in-line at 2.5” and 13.5” from the end of the pipe.

Step 11: Cut two (2) 14.5 inch lengths of dowel rod.

Step 12: Cut four (4) lengths of dowel rod approximately 2 inches length.

Step 13: Place two (2) elbows at the end of two (2) of the un-drilled PVC pipes. These elbows should face in the same direction. Place a section of pipe from Step 6 into the end of each elbow.

Step 14: Place two (2) tees facing the same direction on top of that section of pipe using one of the parallel connectors.

Step 15: Place a pipe from Step 5 into the perpendicular connector of the tee. Lay the assembly onto the ground, and point this newly placed pipe vertically.

Step 16: Place a tee on the end of each pipe, using the parallel connectors again. Connect the two assemblies using two (2) pipes from Step 5.

Step 17: Connect the open perpendicular ends of the tees using 42” lengths of PVC.

Step 18: Repeat steps Step 13-17, except in Step 13 substitute pipes from Step 7 instead of from Step 6.

Step 19: Connect the two assemblies using the pipes from Step 8 and Step 9. Ensure that the pipes from each step are placed in opposing diagonal corners.

Step 20: Place the cross-support beam from Step 3 into the frame, connecting the pairs of double holes. This will complete your frame.






Top Level

Exit Staging Zone1.



Top Level

Cross elevator1 without going down.



Top Level

Cross waves1 leading to funnel.



Top Level

Move oxygen tanks down funnel1 (to middle level).




Press touch sensor with robot to operate elevator to go from top level to middle level.



Middle Level

Remove sharks from Rescue Zone2.



Middle Level

Move oxygen tanks down funnel1 (to bottom level)3.




Press touch sensor with robot to operate elevator to go from middle level to bottom level.



Bottom Level

Move divers to the elevator.




Press touch sensor with robot to operate elevator to go from bottom level to middle level.



Middle Level

Pause 15 seconds and play a song4.




Press touch sensor with robot to operate elevator to go from middle level to top level.



Top Level

Rescue divers by moving them to the top level5.



Total Points Possible


1 See drawings for clarification on feature location

2 “Rescue Zone” simply refers to the course.

3 For every oxygen tank that makes it into the submarine on the first level, a time extension of fifteen (15) seconds will be awarded.

4 The song should be a portion of “Under the Sea” from Little Mermaid, “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles, or any other suitably marine themed song.

5 For every two sharks that remained on the middle level when the divers pass through, one rescued diver is eaten and is not scored.


Iso View (PDF)
Iso 2 (PDF)
Top Level Assembly (PDF)
Top Level Iso (PDF)
Middle Level Assembly (PDF)
Middle Level Iso (PDF)
Bottom Level Assembly (PDF)
Bottom Level Iso (PDF)
Top Level (PDF)
Middle Level (PDF)
Bottom Level (PDF)
Walls (PDF)
Elevator (PDF) (updated 1-29-2008)

Wallace_PIX (updated 1-5-2008)

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