Nearshore Americas

Avantica Leads QA Process For Autonomous Glider

Having the opportunity to contribute to a completely unique project is what makes a software engineer’s heart sing. For Katherine Diaz, a Quality Assurance Engineer at Avantica, a Costa Rica-based software engineering company, the Liquid Robotics project has offered her the opportunity to grow and develop her skills while contributing to a novel technological innovation called the Wave Glider, an unmanned ocean robot.

The little ocean-going robot collects data about the water and the weather and has a variety of possible applications in oil and gas, science, defense and fishing among others.

Avantica’s QA team offers functional testing, performance and load testing, automation. For Avantica the Liquid Robotics project started just over three years ago, when the client realized their need to take on a QA partner.

Diaz has been leading the team in Costa Rica. She has been with Liquid Robotics almost since the beginning of the relationship with Avantica and works with two other team members, one with her in Costa Rica and a team lead from Liquid Robotics in the USA. Together they test and help certify the Wave Glider’s systems.

A diver with the Wave Glider SV3 during operations in Hawaii. The glider is controlled through a web-based interface called the Wave Glider Management System. Avantica has led the testing and certification of the system.
A diver with the Wave Glider SV3 during operations in Hawaii. The glider is controlled through a web-based interface called the Wave Glider Management System. Avantica has led the testing and certification of the system.

“We are moving forward not to test just the Wave Glider Management System (WGMS), a web-based interface to control the robot, but also the operational system of the glider that is under the sea,” Diaz explained.

Testing the compatibility of the WGMS across browsers manually would take weeks. With automation of the process, it took just hours.
Testing the compatibility of the WGMS across browsers manually would take weeks. With automation of the process, it took just hours. Photo courtesy of Liquid Robotics.

Manuel Cubillo, QA Manager at Avantica, Costa Rica’s time zone and cultural affinity advantage has made the project work well. Liquid Robotics’ development team are in California. “They were talking every day, they were seeing each other, and they really appreciated that from us. So when they came here to Costa Rica, they felt like they knew each other,” he said. The training in the system was done remotely using WebEx and Skype tools.

Katherine Diaz, QA lead for Avantica on the Liquid Robotics project, said she developed her soft skills as well as technical competence through the project.
Katherine Diaz, QA lead for Avantica on the Liquid Robotics project, said she developed her soft skills as well as technical competence through the project.

During the first month more than 110 improvements were found in exploratory testing cycles. The team started to identify and create TCs (3,000+ so far) using TestLink and started automation using Selenium WebDriver integrated with Ruby and Test Unit.

Trust was key to the entire project from both a risk management and a technical perspective. “It is a very valuable robot. The whole idea of the system is to use it to send the robot thousands of miles away from you and then bring it back, so it is important to ensure that the testing is done well. It has been a case of building trust with the client so that they can allow us to do the kind of testing that we need to do,” Cubillo said.

The greatest challenge – and opportunity – for the QA team was automating the QA process. Automation has meant that the version that is put in production has practically zero defects. “This is the way it has been for the last six versions,” Diaz said.

Automation has brought a number of benefits, chiefly time and cost savings. Through the deployment of robotics, Avantica has been able to operate with just three team members, cutting costs. By automating the process of testing across different browsers, the team was able to do the certification within hours.

“Manual verification of the system for all the possible browsers might take weeks for a single version to be certified. We are processing 3,000 test cases every release or sprint so they can release more often, trusting that the quality of the system is not lost,” said Cubillo.

Manuel Cubillo, Avantica's QA Manager, said the Liquid Robotics project was about building trust as much as technical competence.
Manuel Cubillo, Avantica’s QA Manager, said the Liquid Robotics project was about building trust as much as technical competence.

Cubillo said that in traditional set-ups you would need “an army to run 3,000 test cases per sprint”, but automation has meant that a team of three has been able to manage this project.

It is an area that keeps on evolving really quickly. Avantica has at least seven or eight projects that are actively using automation.

“We are doing a lot of automation from a more technical perspective. We are using programming languages like Java, Ruby on Rails, Python, to integrate our testing scenarios in an automation process that involves continuous integration, that can go into the development pipeline,” Cubillo said. “It is teamwork between QA, development and the project management to make sure the systems are working properly.”

For Diaz the highlight has been the evolution of the Avantica’s team involvement in the Wave Glider project. “Our involvement has evolved and it has made us, as individuals, evolve. I have become a professional not only with more technical skills, but more softer skills such as communicating with different developers and leading trough the project,” she said. “We are more proactive now. We are more a team and not just the people that certify a version. It has made me love QA.”

Nearshore Americas is seeking to profile outstanding nearshore-related IT/software and call center projects. Contact us with proposals.

Bianca Wright

NSAM Managing Editor Bianca Wright has been published in a variety of magazines and online publications in the UK, the US and South Africa, including Global Telecoms Business, Office.com, SA Computer Magazine, M-Business, Discovery.com, Business Start-ups, Cosmopolitan and ComputorEdge. She holds a MPhil degree in Journalism from the University of Stellenbosch and a DPhil in Media Studies from Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University.

Add comment