Engineering Students Celebrate 20 Years of the International RoboSub Competition
Meghan Brown posted on August 25, 2017 |
More than 300 engineering students tested their mechanical, electrical, computer and systems enginee...
(Image courtesy of RoboNation Robotics Community.)
(Image courtesy of RoboNation Robotics Community.)

Competitions are a great way for engineering students to refine their technical skills and prepare for their professional careers while still having fun. Competitions for solar cars, concrete canoes, race cars and autonomous vehicles are increasingly popular, and run the gamut from design-only challenges to building entire working prototypes.

One of the more venerable examples— the International RoboSub Competition—recently wrapped up it’s 20th iteration. This week-long competition saw more than 300 engineering students testing their mechanical, electrical, computer and systems engineering skills while competing for cash prizes.

Since its inception 20 years ago, RoboSub has seen the number of teams grow substantially. This year’s 46 teams—each with their own student-designed-and-built autonomous submarine—hailed from 14 U.S. states and various countries and international cities, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Russia, Singapore and Thailand.

The teams had to design and build an autonomous submarine to complete a series of visual- and acoustically-based tasks which simulate the work required of robotic subs in the real world—without human or computer intervention by team members.

Missions ranged from simple tasks like touching colored buoys, passing over an obstacle without touching it and dropping markers into a bin—to complex actions like firing mock torpedoes through small cut-out holes, identifying sound from an acoustic pinger, grabbing and moving an object, surfacing the AUV, and knocking balls outside of an octagon.

All the underwater activity during the event took place at the Transducer Evaluation Center pool at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific —a test facility that houses six million gallons of water to simulate a vast underwater expanse.

(Image courtesy of RoboNation Robotics Community.)
(Image courtesy of RoboNation Robotics Community.)

Cornell University took this year’s top prize of $4,500 USD. Far Eastern Federal University from Russia won second prize and $4,000 and National University of Singapore placed third for $3,000. Earning fourth place and $2,000 was Harbin Engineering University from China. Georgia Institute of Technology rounded out the top five, taking home $1,000.

Smaller awards of $1,500 and $1,000 in specially judged categories went to Cornell University, San Diego State University, University of Puerto Rico at Mäyaguez, McGill University and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. 

(Image courtesy of RoboNation Robotics Community.)
(Image courtesy of RoboNation Robotics Community.)

The event is co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International Foundation (AUVSIF).

“Competitions like RoboSub are a win-win for participants and the Navy,” said Dr. Daniel Deitz, a program officer in ONR's Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department and RoboSub judge. “It provides students with career field experiences and, for the Navy, it provides a venue for development and better understanding of autonomous undersea vehicles [AUV].”

Autonomous systems will extend the air, surface, underwater and ground vehicle capabilities of the Navy and Marine Corps. “As unmanned and autonomous technologies advance, the Navy will continue to improve the science behind autonomous vehicles,” said Deitz. “We hope today’s RoboSub participants will become those engineers, and contribute great ideas and innovative concepts about what the next unmanned systems will look like and how they will operate.”

To learn more, visit the RoboSub competition website.

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