In July, 16 teams gathered in Virginia Beach to compete in the eighth annual RoboBoat Competition, with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University taking home the top prize of $7,000.
The competition was sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation, according to the release. Teams from the United States and around the world put their custom-built autonomous surface vehicles, or ASVs, through a series of challenges.
“The course provides students with realistic maritime environment missions,” said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons, Ship Systems and Engineering Research Division, according to the release. “The successes and challenges students experience via the competition are good preparation for a future in engineering, hopefully for the Navy. From completing a run to making onsite adjustments, RoboBoat offers students a firsthand look at what real-life engineers go through when developing and testing Navy technologies for our Sailors and Marines.”
Teams were judged on vessel design and performance, according to the release. The design component focused on quality of engineering and craftsmanship and innovation. For the performance portion, the vehicles were judged on their ability to execute specific missions on the water. The tasks measured propulsion, navigation and speed as the vehicles passed through a set of gates, demonstrating their visual sensor and guidance integration, speed and their ability to navigate a channel. Every task had to be completed for teams to receive any mission challenge points. Obstacle avoidance, automated docking and acoustic beacon positioning were among the other challenges.
“Autonomy is a major focus for the Navy today,” Cooper said, according to the release. “The experiences received here provide students a crucial stepping stone in developing the skills needed to be successful in this important naval career field—these are the scientists and engineers that will undertake the fundamental research and development of our future autonomous naval systems.”
Florida Atlantic University won second prize and $4,000; University of Michigan took third and earned $3,000; and the Daytona Beach Homeschoolers came in fourth, earning $2,500, according to the release. Smaller awards of $1,000 and $1,500 in various special award categories went to Electronic Engineering Polytechnic Institute of Surabaya, the University of Ulsan and the University of Florida.