Erik Stackpole


Eric Stackpole & David Lang

Eric Stackpole and David Lang, have created OpenROV, an open-source, low-cost underwater robot for exploration and education. (ROV stands for Remotely Operated Vehicle.)

David was inspired by a conversation with a carpenter, who, as David puts it, “had a skill no one could ever take away.” He enrolled in a public workshop, where he found solace in making things—a planter box, a cribbage board.

David met an engineer Eric Stackpole, and he told David a story about a robbery in the mid 1800s where the robbers allegedly chucked the loot into an underwater limestone cavern in Trinity County, California. Over the years, treasure hunters had tried to find the stash, but they could never dive deep enough to find it.

Eric and David began designing a submersible ROV (remotely operated vehicle) that might poke its way toward the treasure. David had never held a soldering gun, much less built an underwater drone. No matter. This sparked the idea for OpenROV, an affordable, accessible undersea exploration rover.

They didn’t find the treasure; the sub’s camera only turned up a piece of tubing, some sunglasses, and an old lighter. But in OpenROV, they had something far better—an opportunity. An rover kit made from off-the-shelf parts and instructions from a community of fellow tinkerers who are constantly trying to improve the process. David and Eric participated in OpenMAKE: Tools at the Exploratorium.