OES Beacon Tech

The Singapore Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge (SAUVC)

IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, Singapore Chapter

The Singapore AUV Challenge (SAUVC) 2018

The sixth edition of the SAUVC was organized from 9 to 12 March, 2018, jointly with Singapore Polytechnic. This edition of the event was the largest ever in terms of team participation, continuing the trend set by past years of the event. This year, a record-breaking 54 teams registered for the event, of which 27 teams were selected and 26 competed at the event. Like in the previous year, a workshop on AUV related topics was also organised and details of the same has been covered in a separate report.

Student Teams

Novel AUV designs spotted at SAUVC 2018.

To manage the unexpected turn out of the number of teams, we introduced a criterion for the teams to qualify for participation in the event. The teams were required to submit a video of their AUV swimming without any tether attached to it for at least 10 seconds. 27 teams, of which five were local, submitted the videos and 26 teams competed at the event. In total, there were 300 student participants. This was the largest contingent of participants in the history of SAUVC. A list of teams who participated in the SAUVC 2018 and their country of origin is given below. A staggering representation of teams from all across South Asia and South East Asia was evident at this event. There were many newcomers and some familiar faces in the participating teams.

The teams exhibited creativity and uniqueness in the design of their AUVs. The designs varied in many aspects such as size, shape and weight and also in the propulsion mechanism. The team from Singapore University of Technology and Design came up with a soft-robotics based AUV, which caught the attention of many.

Qualification and Final Rounds

Woohoo ! An AUV nearing completion of task 3 as our divers watch keenly.

The challenge consisted of two tiers—qualification round and final round. Qualification involved swimming the AUV for 25 meters from a start line to a finish line, while staying within the water column without touching the pool boundaries. Only the top 15 teams, who cleared the qualification round, would be allowed to participate in the final round. In the final round, the AUV would accumulate points by completing a series of tasks aimed at testing its acoustic and visual navigation capabilities, positioning, actuation and robotic manipulation. The table below provides the different functional capabilities of the AUV being tested and the related tasks.

Each task carried a certain number of points, depending on the challenge and the difficulty involved in performing the said task. There was also a timing bonus, and a bonus associated with the static testing of AUVs. The tasks were similar to the past year’s competition, but made more challenging through randomization of positioning of buckets, flare and gate and its orientation. A complete description of the tasks, static judging criteria and award of points are covered in the competition rule book available at sauvc.github.io/rulebook/.

15 teams, out of the 26 that competed, made it to the final round, which is a record within the SAUVC event. This demonstrated the improving quality of participating teams, and their increased level of preparedness. This could partly be attributed to prior participation by the teams in similar competitions held locally or regionally.

Final Round Performance

Winners of SAUVC 2018 from Northwestern Polytechnical University, China.

One striking observation this year was that many finalists were able to complete the first task, passing through the gate with relative ease, despite the randomness introduced in the gate position and its orientation. Six teams were able to resurface at the end of their run at a designated position. This is in stark contrast to the numbers in the past few years, reflecting the improving team performance.

However, what separated the wheat from the chaff in the final round, was the ability to do tasks 2 and 4. Task 2 required the AUV to drop a ball in a designated bucket, out of the four, kept on the pool floor and task 4 was hitting a flare and dropping the ball held by it Two teams successfully completed task 2, and two teams performed task 4. Only the winning team was able to complete both task 2 and 4 in the same run. The runner-up team from NIT Rourkela was able to find the bucket with the acoustic pinger in two of their successive runs. Though two of the teams attempted, none of the teams, were able to perform task 3 of reacquiring the ball from the bucket. We hope that teams would be able to accomplish this task in a future SAUVC event.

The team from Northwestern Polytechnical University, China, who were also the defending champions, emerged as the winner for completing the largest number of the tasks. They have been doing consistently well because the team has passed on the expertise gained over the years effectively to junior teams. The team from FEFU, Russia, has also been consistently in the top 3 for the last 4 years. The top 3 teams in the finals are as follows:

  1. Northwestern Polytechnical University, China
  2. National Institute of Technology, Rourkela, India
  3. Far Eastern Federal University/Institute of Marine Technology Problems, Russia

Award Presentation Ceremony

Students, invited guests, sponsors and the committee members at the prize presentation ceremony.

The final winners were announced at an award presentation ceremony on the 12th of March, which was followed by a networking dinner. This saw about two hundred students come together with the guest speakers, SAUVC committee members and volunteers, for an eventful evening to close the competition. The award presentation saw some fun-filled and high-adrenaline moments when each of the prizes were announced. Loud cheers erupted when video summaries of the competition days were played, one by one, while participants rejoiced over the memories of the past 4 days. The networking dinner was hosted to show our appreciation to the participating student teams and our sponsors and volunteers, as well as facilitate good interaction to bring the curtains down on the event. A plaque was presented to the SAUVC 2018 committee by IEEE OES, in appreciation of their efforts in organizing the event successfully with such a large outreach.

We continued with the photo competition, which was started in 2016, to engage more students, including non-participants on the competition. This has also helped to get more visibility of the event. This year, the numbers for the competition went through the roof. The top two photos, which got 26,000 and 21,000 likes, are shown below. They were from the Zakir Hussain college of Engineering and technology, India and Bogor Agricultural university, Indonesia respectively.

IEEE OES presenting a plaque to the committee in appreciation of efforts in organizing SAUVC 2018. The two most liked photos in the Facebook photography competition, with 26000 and 21000 likes respectively. Dinner and discussions, that’s the way we do it.

IEEE OES presenting a plaque to the committee in appreciation of efforts in organizing SAUVC 2018.
The two most liked photos in the Facebook photography competition, with 26000 and 21000 likes respectively.
Dinner and discussions, that’s the way we do it.

 

Media Coverage, Publicity And Website Visibility

The publicity stats this time were impressive. The competition was extensively covered on social media (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) by our social media team. The SAUVC Facebook page saw very high activity, from the numbers we obtained from Facebook page statistics. The viral reach of the page from 8 to 13 March, which was the number of people who had any content from our page enter their screen, was 74,838 Facebook users. The total number of times any content from the SAUVC page entered a user’s screen was 245,834 times from 8 to 13 March.

We undertook extensive video coverage this time. This included video interviews with all the teams who participated at the event, getting their views on the competition and their experience at the event. There were also video interviews with the guests who attended. Interviews of the teams and guests, and daily highlights from the event, are available at www.youtube.com/user/ARLTMSINUSChannel/playlists 

The website www.sauvc.org was revamped for this year’s event and sported a trendy look. It also saw a very high activity. Some statistics on the website usage are shown here. The highest usage seems to be from India, where most of the participating teams came from. However, it is surprising to see that the event page was accessed from 6 continents around the world. The event also saw good media publicity, especially in Bangladesh and India, where it was covered in national newspapers such as ‘Telegraph India’ and ‘The Daily Star’.

Feedback

We sought post-event anonymous feedback from the teams through an online survey. The feedback was excellent. Some statistics on the feedback are shown in an infographic here.

Some testimonials we received are as follows:

“I loved that everyone was very friendly and they were ready to help me whenever I needed some assistance. And other teams were also very cooperative. Learnt a lot in these 4 days.”
“Come to learn, not to win. There’s more to learn from this competition than anywhere else about Oceanic Engineering. I would love to come back over and over again.”
“It’s the best competition for first timers. And most of the teams also come through all the difficulties as you’ve gone through…so participate and learn…”

Sponsorship 

The SAUVC event is run solely using sponsorship money. IEEE OES has been the biggest supporter of this event since its inception in 2013. One of the other regular academic sponsors was the National University of Singapore. As in past years, a number of companies supported the event, including some returning sponsors and some new ones. The company logos were displayed at standees located around the event venue, and announced throughout the event. Social media publicity was also given for the sponsors. One of the sponsors, Sonardyne also set up a booth at the competition venue displaying some of their products and related catalogues.

Membership Drive

Like previous years, we organized a membership drive during SAUVC 2018. This involved spreading awareness on the benefits of membership via leaflets, pamphlets and poster standees. A membership recruitment talk for IEEE OES was also delivered at the opening of the workshop on autonomous marine systems, by Dr. Hari Vishnu, chair of the IEEE OES, Singapore chapter. Students were asked whether they were interested in a free one year student membership offer, and many students signed up for the same expressing their interest.

Acknowledgements 

Guests walkabouts at SAUVC 2018.

SAUVC 2018 was graced by several eminent underwater robotics experts from around the world. This includes Dr. William Kirkwood from Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, a familiar face at SAUVC, who has been very supportive and encouraging of the event. His presence at the event has always been a morale booster for the teams and organizers. Dr. Thomas Curtin from Applied Physics lab, Washington, joined the party this time, helping out in judging at the event, and also sharing some very helpful words with the teams from his years of experience in organizing the Robosub competition. Dr. Hayato Kondo from Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology was also a constant presence amongst the teams, and could be seen discussing with students on their AUVs.

SAUVC has been running for six years successfully now, growing each year and becoming possibly the largest underwater robotics events for students in Asia. One aspect of SAUVC is that it does not charge a registration fee for teams to participate. This is a policy aimed at promoting fledgling teams to compete, and generate interest in underwater robotics. SAUVC is also popular for its outreach, and we also try our best to provide mentoring for teams. It was encouraging to see that there was very good information sharing amongst the teams. Most teams took home the message that SAUVC is all about learning and sharing rather than just competing. As far as we, the SAUVC committee are concerned, this is the biggest win of all.