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US Navy Lab Hosts Underwater Robotics Competition

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Navy Lab Hosts Underwater Robotics Competition

(Source: US Navy; issued July 31, 2013)

SAN DIEGO --- There was plenty of excitement from student teams during the 16th annual International RoboSub Competition, held at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific's (SSC Pacific) Transducer Evaluation Center (TRANSDEC) pool, July 23-28.
RoboSub, co-sponsored by the Office of Naval Research and Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation, hosted 30 national and international collegiate teams, in addition to five high school teams and the first middle school team to participate in the competition.

The goal of this competition is to advance the development of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) by challenging a new generation of engineers to perform realistic missions in an underwater environment. The event also fosters ties between young engineers and organizations developing AUV technologies.

"Inspiring and encouraging today's youth to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is important to us at SSC Pacific, and we're happy to host the RoboSub Competition for the twelvth year in a row," said Capt. Joe Beel, SSC Pacific commanding officer. "RoboSub is a platform for students around the world to highlight their abilities and aptitude, while fostering teamwork, communication and creativity, all important attributes for a STEM professional. SSC Pacific has a strong education outreach program in the local community, and RoboSub is a great opportunity for us to invite the public to visit the lab and meet with the students and our engineers."

"License to Dive" was the theme of this year's RoboSub competition and the goal was for an AUV to demonstrate its autonomy by completing an underwater "License to Dive" mission. The requirements for the underwater task were established, and the teams were judged on their ability to complete the mission.

Volunteer divers, including Navy divers stationed at SSC Pacific, launched the AUVs into the water at the TRANSDEC facility. The TRANSDEC pool is a one-of-a-kind facility that simulates ocean conditions and provides an ideal environment for research. Built in 1963, the pool measures 300 feet by 200 feet with a depth of 38 feet.

To further promote STEM, a SeaPerch Fun Challenge was held July 26 in conjunction with RoboSub. SeaPerch is an innovative underwater robotics program that provides middle and high school students the resources to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) from a kit of low-cost, easily accessible parts.

Approximately 20 middle and high school teams participated during the SeaPerch Fun Challenge where they interacted with their peers, college students and STEM professionals.

Corresponding to the goal of RoboSub, the Daytona Beach Area Homeschoolers team, the first middle school team to compete in RoboSub, had initially started exploring STEM through SeaPerch, and were mentored by college students from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), who were also competing in RoboSub.

With guidance from ERAU students, the Daytona Beach Area Homeschoolers team chose to delve deeper into STEM by graduating from an ROV to an AUV. Achieving this objective, the Homeschoolers team entered the RoboSub competition to have their vehicle compete against some of the brightest engineering students in the world.

Winners of the RoboSub Competition were announced July 28, with first place awarded to Cornell University. Second and third place were awarded to the University of Florida and Far Eastern Federal University, respectively.

Special awards were also presented, and the award categories included Best New Entry, which was awarded to National University of Singapore, and Bang for the Buck, which was presented to the Daytona Beach Area Homeschoolers team. The award for outreach was distributed in a three-way tie to North Carolina State, Carl Hayden High School and ERAU.

Councilwoman Sherri Lightner, City of San Diego Council president pro-tem, attended the events, and highlighted the importance of STEM during her visit with the students.

"Whether it be maritime robotics or any other high-tech field, a STEM education and experiences such as today's competition are what will help you reach your goals," said Lightner. "I hope today's challenge inspires you to do even more with STEM, as there are so many opportunities in today's global workforce that depend on these skills.

"I note that many of you are in high school or attend college and are well on your way toward a STEM education and career," she said. "I challenge you to give back to this community of people who have inspired and supported you, and help bring along the next generation of scientists and engineers behind you. You are already leaders by being here today."