rov12This project is for advanced students.

Up until 200 years ago, people thought the oceans were bottomless.  The diving bell was one of the first recorded attempts at undersea exploration, and was simply a five-foot inverted cup with viewing holes on a platform that lowered into the water, which allowed people to breathe the trapped air inside… until they ran out of air.  Leonardo da Vinci draw several sketches of underwater submersibles, and in the 1700s, John Lethbridge invented a long wooden cylinder with glass ends as one of the first diving units to reach 60 feet.

In 1930, two explorers used the bathysphere (a giant ball with windows) reached 1,428 feet below the surface, which was later followed by the bathyscape (deep diving vessel) that reached the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, the Marianas Trench, at 35,800 feet in 1960.

The ROVs first made their appearance in the late 1960s, when military and offshore drilling required deeper dives.  In the late 1980s, scientists needed a way to explore the remains of the Titanic, and a lower-cost, lighter weight version design was developed. ROVs are designed to be remote extensions of the operator.

One of the biggest challenges with deep-diving underwater vessels is keeping the tremendous pressure from crumpling the frame.  The project we’re going to design is meant for swimming pools and smaller lakes. When designing your underwater vehicle, you’ll need to pay close attention to the finer details such as waterproofing the electrical motors and maintaining proper balance so that your robot doesn’t flip over or swim in circles.

Learn about thruster motors, create the chassis, and build the controller for these super-popular underwater robots that really swim in water! A fantastic project for parents and kids to work together on. Your underwater robot will move in all six directions and utilizes a 12V power source.

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You are about to embark on the adventure of creating and operating your own ROV underwater robot.  As with all Supercharged Science educational items, we want kids to discover that science isn’t in the special parts that come with a kit, but rather in the imagination and skill of the kid building it.  We strive to avoid parts that are specially made just for a kit, molded plastic pieces, etc. and instead use parts that any kid could buy from the store.  This means that kids can feel free to change things around, use their own ideas to add improvements and whatever else their imagination can come up with.  So on this note, let’s get started.

WARNING: This project is intended for kids over age 12, and requires adult supervision.  Here are things to keep in mind:

  1. The soldering iron reaches temperatures over 750F.  It can obviously cause severe burns and serious injury.  Always put it in the stand when not in use.  Don’t look away while using it. Unplug it as soon as you’re done and set it in a place to cool where it won’t get knocked over.
  2. Solder sometimes contains lead.  Just don’t get it near your face and wash your hands when you’re done touching it.  Plus, the usual warning that lead causes disease, it’s toxic, don’t feet it to you pets and keep it away from children.
  3. The thruster motors in this kit are VERY powerful.  The propellers (when turning) will easily cut through skin and flesh if you touch them! (Don’t be fooled because they’re plastic).  NEVER touch them with anything when they are turning.  Treat them like you would a power saw.  Always disconnect power before working on them (short circuits can make them start unexpectedly).
  4. PLEASE use common sense.  Think like a real scientist: If something seems like it might be dangerous, it probably is.  The real world doesn’t have warnings on everything that could possibly hurt you.  I ask that you apply similar good judgment in using this kit.  If you’re not sure, ASK for help.  Ask a parent. And parents, if you need help, email or call us.
  5. Okay, I’m required to say this one: This kit contains small parts, plastic bags and other choking hazards.  Children under 3 years of age should not be allowed to touch it.  (Obviously this is true since it’s meant for kids over 12.)
Omit the 2″ float pieces and instead put a pool noodle around the 1/2″ PVC, and also skip the toilet seal wax for sealing the thrusters (not sure if the video has this step or if we omitted it already) and just use straight hot glue. The frame does not need to be airtight, so if you’re concerned about fumes, just use hot glue for the entire project.
UPDATED ROV DESIGN: Omit the 2″ float pieces and instead put a pool noodle secured with zip ties around the 1/2″ PVC, and seal each thruster with hot glue. The frame does not need to be airtight, so if you’re concerned about fumes from the PVC glue, just use  hot glue for the entire project.


The parts you’ll need are as follows:

Glue & Fasteners

  • Superglue (0.5 oz. bottle or more)
  • Hot glue gun and extra glue sticks
  • Tube of silicone sealant or caulking
  • Petroleum jelly (Vaseline)
  • 6 pcs. #6 x ½” stainless steel or brass sheet metal screws
  • 6 pc. #6 stainless steel washers
  • 10 pcs. 6” x 3/16” zip ties
  • Old newspapers to work on
  • Paper towels to clean up with

Frame Parts

  •  5 ft. of ½” schedule 40 PVC pipe (Have it cut into these pieces at the store)
    • 6 pcs. 1.5″ long
    • 8 pcs. 4″ long
    • 2 pcs. 6.5″ long
  • 10 pcs. ½” schedule 40 PVC 90-degree elbows
  •  4 pcs. ½” schedule 40 PVC tee’s
  •  2 ft. of 2” schedule 40 PVC pipe (Have it cut into two 6″ pieces at the store)
  •  4 pcs. 2” schedule 40 PVC end caps
  • 3 thruster housings (plastic vials like film canisters… something that the hobby motors can fit into snugly)
  • 3 pieces of 1” metal semicircular conduit straps (w/2 screw holes. 1” conduit)
  • 10” x 6.5” piece of plastic hardware cloth (1/4” squares) – it looks like a plastic mesh grid. If you have chicken wire on hand, then you can use that instead.

Electrical parts

  • Three 12V DC motors 
  • 3 thruster propellers (drill out with 3/32” holes) – boat propellers from a hobby store work great
  • 3 DPDT center-off screw terminal switches
  • Electrical tape (good quality) OR 2 pcs. #31 wire nut connectors
  • 30 ft. of “CAT-3” (or “CAT-5”) telephone/network cable (8-conductor or 4-pair, AWG 24)
  • Rectangular project box  (Approx. 4” x 6” x 3”)
  • 12V Battery (two 6-volt lantern batteries, an old motorcycle or car battery or an “automotive jump starter” rechargeable power source)


  • Wire strippers
  • Long nose pliers
  • Soldering iron & stand with solder
  • An electric drill
  • Assorted drill bits (Specifically: 3/32”, 1/8”, 1/4”)
  • Razor knife
  • Hack saw or PVC pipe cutter
  • Flathead screwdrivers
  • Scissors
  • #120 sandpaper
  • A ruler or measuring tape

Okay, so you’re ready to go.  Oh, a couple of notes.  First, if your thruster housings are not snug enough in the pipe clamps, just wrap electrical tape around them a few times to add a little bit of extra thickness.  One other thing.  You may choose to solder alligator clips to your battery wires to make them easier to connect.  Just clip the alligator clip on something large to open its jaws, slip off the rubber part and solder your wire on.

Happy Exploring!


Learn how to turn this project into a winning Science Fair Project!


53 Responses to “Underwater R.O.V. Robot”

  1. I am sorry I am not understanding your question… what is that you are looking for? The parts, or access to instructions, or something else?

  2. Patricia De Lazzari says:

    I do not have it can you give it to me my son really wants to do it

  3. The wire Al recommends in the video is cat-3, which means there are three wires bundled inside one outer casing. You can alternatively use individual 18/2 lamp wire, you’ll just have three separate wires going from the control box to the motors. You can twist them together by holding down one end of the wire (ask a kid to hold it for you) and insert the other three wires into the chuck of a drill and slowly rotate the drill (turn it on) to twist the wires together to do the same job as the cat-3. Does that help?

  4. Marisa Corless says:

    The list says 50′ of lamp wire, I acquired 18/2 lamp wire, but the cat3 stuff he’s talking about….what kind of wire is required?

  5. I’ll have my team connect with you right away!

  6. June Huffey says:

    I really like r.o.v.s and I would like to do this but sadly I can’t do this so please help thanks.

  7. No problem! Glad we figured it out!

  8. Shannon Tefft-Janes says:

    Qustodio. Apparently it gained sentience and decided to monitor a parent/admin account although your website is white listed. Nuked that program. Thanks for your patience.

  9. As of right now, everything is at normal usage levels and our servers are humming along fine… Let’s see if we can figure this out – what computer/device are you using, and what browser?

  10. Shannon Tefft-Janes says:

    I’ve tried it again. And again, and again. My husband, who is a network engineer, has done everything possible to our local network to make sure that it isn’t anything on our end. It isn’t. He suspects, as do I, that perhaps you’ve had a high volume of calls to your video service and that maybe your vendor is throttling down your output? I don’t know, but is there any other solution you can think of?

  11. Awesome idea! You are sure to have a fantastic time! Here’s a couple of updates for you that we’ve done when teaching this project to kids and parents:

    Omit the 2″ float pieces and instead put a pool noodle around the 1/2″ PVC, and also skip the toilet seal wax for sealing the thrusters (not sure if the video has this step or if we omitted it already) and just use straight hot glue. The frame does not need to be airtight, so if you’re concerned about fumes, just use hot glue for the entire project.

    The video appears to be working over here all the way through to 75 minutes 27 sec. Try again?

  12. Shannon Tefft-Janes says:

    Hi there! Looks like a great project and I’m organizing a few kids (and adults) together to put some together. However, I can’t get the video to load. I’m thinking it’s on your end (or the service you use) as we have 1Gb bandwidth service. Any suggestions? Thanks!

  13. I wonder if it matters what time of day you are watching the videos? Also, you can open it the night before and start it playing so it will begin downloading, and then pause it and come back the next morning and see if it plays all the way through? Let me know if you still have trouble and I can see what I can do for you so you can finish this project. We’ll get something working for you!

  14. Mary Jo Jager says:

    I’m thinking it might just be the speed of our internet connection because it does the same on all 3 laptops. This was what I ran into quite a bit with other videos we’ve tried to watch from here (one of the reasons why I had cancelled subscription before.) Hoping to upgrade this summer so we can enjoy your videos. They are great, just keep freezing up on us 🙁

  15. I just checked the video here and it plays the entire way through. What happens if you try a different computer? Or, push PLAY and then hit PAUSE and wait for a few minutes, and then you will be able to jump around on the slider below the video. Does that help?

  16. Mary Jo Jager says:

    My video keeps freezing at 17:43 minutes. I have put it on pause, left it for quite awhile (even did it overnite) and it won’t continue. Any suggestions? My son THINKS he knows how to continue building but…

  17. Yay! Send me a picture!! 🙂 Yes you can find different propellers at a hobby store or try online.

  18. Karen Macarthur says:

    Hi Aurora,
    We have finished building the ROV and it is awesome. We are looking to purchase different blade propellers to test on the underwater ROV. Where would we go about acquiring some?

  19. You’re right – hot glue and super glue are not nearly strong enough to hold the propellers to the shaft. Superglue will not work because you’re gluing a smooth metal surface and applying a lot of force in the form of twisting (torque).

    There’s a couple of different ways you can solve this problem. The propellers are falling off because the shaft is too smooth and your glue can’t grab hold of it (look in the propeller and you’ll see glue is still attached to it, but there’s none left on the shaft).

    This is the best way to do it, but it requires patience and access to tools:

    First, if you have access to a grinder (a machine that has a grinding wheel that spins fast – ask around, and you’ll probably find a dad who has one in their garage), hold the shaft of the motor with pliers and grind a flat spot on your shaft. Then use a set screw (a tiny screw that uses an allen wrench to screw it in) put it in a hole you drill through the collar of the propeller (between the blades), and the set screw sits on the flat part of the shaft you wore away. THis is the most secure way to put the propellers on, and they will not come off in the water when you do it this way.

    If you don’t have access to tools, the next best thing you can do is rough up the shaft by sanding it with sandpaper and brush it off well. Then carefully apply 5 minute 2-ton epoxy to only the shaft, being very careful not to get any on the motor housing, or the shaft will no longer spin. Make sure you’re only applying the epoxy to the shaft tip. Let it dry overnight and then test it out in the bathtub. If the propeller still comes off, try roughing up the shaft more.

    Hope this helps!

  20. Karen Macarthur says:

    Hi Aurora,

    We’ve built the Underwater ROV and it was great! Unfortunately, the propellers keep falling off. We’ve tried hot glue gun and super glue, but both did not work. Do you have any other suggestions to make them stay on?

  21. I’ll have my connect with you right away.

  22. Alessandra Soares says:

    I have a 5th grader and he can’t access this.Why?

  23. Sure thing! That package was intended for the hovercraft project, which only requires 2 propellers. I’ll send you a private message…

  24. Yvonne Myers says:

    We are in need of 1 more propeller to finish this project. Out of the blue, I received a package in the mail from you awhile back that contained 2 propellers (thank you very much!). Is it possible to get 1 more so that we can finish this? We are really enjoying this!

  25. Chanda Vega says:

    the price of the r.o.v is around 70 $

  26. We have the essentials pack in our Science Mastery Gold and Diamond programs. We no longer offer just the kit for sale.

  27. Carrie Cannon says:

    do you have a kit for this robot and how expensive is it

  28. Ginette Martin says:

    Oh, now it works.

  29. Ginette Martin says:

    What do i do? it wont play now and it has only been one day since you sent it.

  30. You can find neat (and inexpensive) things like this from and MPJA.

  31. Linda Conrad says:

    ooooooo i am going to use the idea of the robotic cookie snacher to make strong robot arms for this !!!!!! of course i will have to find a way to waterproof the arms!

  32. Linda Conrad says:

    what model is the wireless camera you used? and where did you buy it?

  33. This kit is included in the Science Mastery program Gold and Diamond versions. At this time, we no longer offer just the individual kits for sale, but the parts are easy enough to find at Radio Shack and a hardware store!

  34. Penny Neufeld says:

    how do i get the kit i really want to do this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  35. I’ve sent you a private email…

  36. Shelley Harwood says:

    Hi Aurora! We are having a great time building this ROV with our son and are almost all finished! He is so excited!! We have question, though. Where can we buy the propellers for it? I have searched around and am not sure of the exact propeller and size to get. Any help is greatly appreciated!! Thanks for making such a wonderful science program!!

  37. Yes it’s a durable little robot, and one of the very first projects I taught to kids! It’s really worth it if you can get the materials for it. 🙂 It’s called the “SeaPerch”, but we modified it and made better thruster motors and box design as well so it works better than the original (no messing around with toilet seal wax anymore, for example).

  38. Cindy Hoskins says:

    this is one of the best robots I ever seen:) but it hard to make because it takes alot of exspensive supplys:(

  39. Carey Clark says:

    Thanks it worked I hope I don’t have to wait long to get building!!!

  40. I’ll have my team connect with you right away!

  41. Ashanta Ambush says:

    Hi Aurora,

    How can we get access to this experiment? My kids would like to try it.


  42. This video is particularly long, so you might want to try this trick: click PLAY and when it starts to load, click PAUSE and go do something else. After the status bar is filled, click PLAY again. You shouldn’t have any trouble now! 🙂

  43. Carey Clark says:

    I was wondering if there is some way to downlaod the video because its
    loading very slowly!.

  44. Anything that fits on the leads of your battery will work.

  45. Nicole German says:

    What size alligator clips do we need?

  46. Marie Rossel says:

    This is cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  47. joseph chung says:

    i’m soooo gonna built this.:-)

  48. This is actually one of the very first parent-kid workshops we taught. It took us four two-hour sessions working together, with the last session ending at a swimming pool and testing it out. Each parent-kid team got their own materials with a tool kit, and they prepped their own materials (we handed out PVC cutters along with the pipe, as this took a long time to cut all that pipe!) We do offer discounts when you purchase packs from us in bulk – email me if you are interested in our ROV essentials pack (it comes with the toolkit also).

  49. Anonymous says:

    Can you tell me how you would teach this to a group? How many kids can actually work on one project? How long would it take to assemble? How much of the steps would need to be pre-done to make it easier?

  50. The video is fully uploaded – try clicking PLAY, then PAUSE and wait for it to completely finish (this may take awhile, as it’s a large file), and then click PLAY again. Start it 10 min before the end and you should have it completely.

  51. Darla Shannon says:

    when i watch this it starts over at the last ten or so minutes can you fix it soon? i have two days left on the subscription

  52. Since this one uses power tools, it’s available to members in the K-12 program. And yes, many 5th graders have made this project successfully! This was actually one of the very first workshops I ever taught to 10 year olds.

  53. Juliet White says:

    Can it be for 5th grade and up?

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