UF students place second in international robotic submarine competition

In Engineering Education, Honors & Awards, News by Claudia Adrien

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — University of Florida engineering students have garnered a second-place finish at the International RoboSub Competition in San Diego, where they tested their skills with a small robotic submarine autonomously maneuvering through a series of obstacles on a military base.

The competition, sponsored by Associated for Unmanned Vehicles Systems International and the U.S. Office of Naval Research, is to advance the development of autonomous underwater vehicles by motivating college students to devise the next generation of the technology.

With the15th RoboSub competition this year, there was a Roman-inspired theme “Ides of TRANSDEC.” TRANSDEC is the name of the military facility hosting the event.

“In one obstacle, students had to crown the emperor,” said UF team coach Eric Schwartz, associate director of the Machine Intelligence Laboratory on campus.

By “crowning,” the autonomously controlled submarine had to locate, retrieve and finally deliver a PVC pipe structure (the crown) — picked up by the submarine. In order to find the crown, the UF team located a sound source (using four underwater microphones) to find the general vicinity, and then utilized a camera in order to pinpoint the precise location. After recovering the crown, a second sound source was located; the camera was then re-tasked to assist in placing the crown on “Caesar’s head.”

Seven UF students participated, including four undergraduate and three graduate students. Schwartz said UF is the only university that has participated in each of the 15 years of the contest. UF has placed in the top-three spots at nine of the 15 competitions.

There were 31 schools from 10 countries — both record numbers — participating this year. Cornell University won first place.

“These guys are doing such great engineering, that no matter how bad the economy is, they get jobs,” Schwartz said.

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