Diving Deep: Engineering, Science Students Face Off in Underwater Competition

Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications
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Arlington, Va., 22203-1771
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For Immediate Release: August 10, 2018

By Sierra Jones, Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, Va.—It was an exciting time in San Diego last week as nearly 50 high school and university teams from around the world made a splash at the 21st International RoboSub Competition at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific Transducer Evaluation Center.

The week-long autonomous submarine competition, co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Association of Unmanned Vehicles International Foundation, tested students’ mechanical, electrical, computer and systems engineering skills—as well as their presentation skills and teamwork while competing for cash prizes (which go directly to the school, usually to a robotic club or program).

“The submarines are all designed and built by students,” said Dr. Daniel Deitz,  a program officer in ONR’s Ocean Battlespace Sensing Department and RoboSub judge. “It is amazing to see how every year these teams—whether seasoned competitors or first timers—take a singular set of rules and turn it into 40-plus distinctive, innovative, working submarine prototypes.”

While each submarine in the competition is unique, they all have one common mission: to demonstrate autonomous capability by completing a series of visual- and acoustic-based tasks that simulate some of the duties required of today’s underwater vehicles.

To meet this year’s mission requirements, the submarines—without human or computer interaction—had to complete a variety of “casino-themed” tasks that included: touching dice buoys; dropping chips into a roulette bin; pulling a slots lever to fire mock torpedoes through small cutout holes; and cash in by grabbing a chip, then surfacing the vehicle and dropping the chip into a cashier’s register.

Teams also had to create a website, write a paper that outlined their work and give a presentation.

“RoboSub is a well-rounded event, providing participants the opportunity to apply their classroom knowledge to real-world problems—as well as hone their networking, presentation and communication skills as they prepare to enter the workforce,” said Deitz.

According to the recently released DoN Strategic Roadmap for Unmanned Systems (short version), which lays out a plan to seamlessly integrate more unmanned systems into the naval services and across all domains, having a well-rounded generation of engineers and scientists is essential to the Navy’s future force.

Harbin Engineering University (China) took this year’s top prize, while National University of Singapore and École de Technologie Supérieure (Canada) placed second and third, respectively.

Smaller awards in specially judged categories went to the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; École de Technologie Supérieure; Texas A&M University; Washington State University; University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez (Puerto Rico); San Diego Robotics 101; University of Alberta (Canada); Ohio State University; and Wroclaw University of Science and Technology (Poland).

Other U.S. teams included: Amador Valley High School; Beaver Country Day School; California Institute of Technology; California State University, Fullerton; California State University, Los Angeles; Cornell University; Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Georgia Institute of Technology; Gonzaga University; Kennesaw State University; Montana State University; North Carolina State University; North Dakota State University; Oregon Institute of Technology; Prairie View A&M University; Project Radian; San Diego City College; San Diego State University; University of Arizona; University of California Riverside; University of Central Florida; University of Colorado Boulder; University of Florida; University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign; University of Southern California; and Utah State University.

International teams included: Brazil’s Federal University of Rio de Janeiro; Canada’s McGill University, University of British Columbia and University of Victoria; China’s Northwestern Polytechnical University; India’s Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay; Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology; Russia’s Far Eastern Federal University/Institute for Marine Technology Problems and Maritime State University/Centre for Robotics Development; and Thailand’s Kasetsart University.

Sierra Jones is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

About the Office of Naval Research

The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology with engagement in 50 states, 55 countries, 634 institutions of higher learning and nonprofit institutions, and more than 960 industry partners. ONR, through its commands, including headquarters, ONR Global and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C., employs more than 3,800 people, comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel.

RoboSub 2018
Office of Naval Research
Corporate Strategic Communications
875 N. Randolph St., #1225-D
Arlington, Va., 22203-1771
Office: (703) 696-5031
Fax: (703) 696-5940
E-mail: onrpublicaffairs@navy.mil
Web: www.onr.navy.mil
Facebook: www.facebook.com/officeofnavalresearch

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