December 2019 OES Beacon

OES Provides the “Innovation Award” at RoboSub Competition

Robert Wernli,     

IEEE OES supported the 22nd Annual International Robosub Competition that was held from 29 July to 4 August, 2019, at the TRANSDEC facility at the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC PAC). I was invited by Bill Kirkwood to stand in for him as a judge for the overall competition and also to determine the winner of the OES Innovation Award. Although I spent my career at NIWC PAC (the latest of many names for the navy laboratory on Point Loma in San Diego) and had attended previous RoboSub competitions, I had not had the opportunity to judge the many excellent competitive teams.

RoboSub is an international competition designed to advance the development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and develop relationships between young engineers and the organizations developing and using AUV technologies. The competition is open to full-time middle school, high school, undergraduate and graduate students. The competition is organized by RoboNation with funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. For this competition there were 54 teams representing Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Japan, Norway, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, Turkey and the United States of America and territories. Each year there is an overarching theme for the competition. This year’s theme was “Vampire,” which used related “creatures” and “activities” to characterize the tasks that ranged from a simple passing thru a gate to “slaying vampires.”

I have to say that those involved in the judging were very busy during the competition. As part of the “static” judging team, we would interview each team at their tent over a period of several days and evaluate them on a range of items from their uniforms to their vehicle design and documentation. The other team of judges, assisted by navy divers, awarded points to the teams based on how many tasks they successfully completed.

There were many high scores and the capability of the student teams was amazing. The winning teams, and their cash awards, included:

  • Harbin Engineering University (China) – $6,000
  • Far Eastern Federal University / Institute for Marine Technology Problems (Russia) – $4,000
  • Arizona State University Polytechnic (USA) – $3,000
  • University of Alberta (Canada) – $2,000
  • Cornell University (USA) – $1,000

To determine the winner of the OES Innovation Award, I ended up with five top candidates:

  • Far Eastern Federal University (Russia) for their unique “torpedo” design
  • Project Radian (Temecula, CA, USA) for conducting vision tracking with just three lines of code.
  • iHub (Egypt) for their Data Fusion and SLAM
  • University of Missouri (USA) for an electronic board that folds into a triangle
  • Team Inspiration (San Diego, CA, USA) for their adequately achieved goals: “To Learn, To Share, To Inspire, To Innovate”

And the winner of the Innovation plaque and $300 from OES is:

Team Inspiration

Team Inspiration was the only high school and middle school team in the competition and were not only highly scored technically and verbally, but they “were greatly inspirational.” They also conduct a lot of community outreach to spread their love of robotics. More information can be obtained on the team at:

Harbin Engineering University working on their 1st place AUV
Team Inspiration receiving the Innovation Award plaque from yours truly at the RoboSub Award Event