Katsunori Mizuno, Technical Program Committee Co-Chair of UT21 Online, Beacon Associate Editor
The IEEE OES International Symposium on Underwater Technology 2021 (UT21) was postponed till March 2023 due to COVID-19. However, the organizers decided that the research on underwater technology and international exchange among researchers, students, and professionals should be continued and encouraged, so an online event was organized during the original symposium dates. The Underwater Technology 2021 online (UT21 Online), organized by the IEEE/OES Japan Chapter, Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo, and Earthquake Research Institute, the University of Tokyo, was held on 2 March, 2021, with technical co-sponsor, the IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society (IEEE/OES). A special program was prepared for this event: two keynote talks and an Underwater Video Competition (URL: http://www.ut2021.org).
There were 101 registrations from 13 countries. Due to the time difference, the maximum number of on-site participants was 27, but the number of on-demand (YouTube) viewers was up-to 124 during March 3-10, when the site was open. Prior to the event, the author gave an introduction to the symposium. A picture of cherry blossoms was used as a virtual background to give the audience a sense of Japanese spring. I hope it has been effective.
At the opening ceremony, Dr. Katsuyoshi Kawaguchi, a general co-chair of UT21 online, the Director of Engineering Department, Japan Agency for Marin-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC), gave a welcome address. He explained the purpose of the event, wishing for the safety of people around the world, and stated that the society will contribute to the world today through the underwater technology.
The introduction of Keynote speakers was given by Professor Changkyu Rheem, a general co-chair of UT21 online, IIS, The University of Tokyo. Professor Yosuke Kaifu, the university Museum, the University of Tokyo, gave the first keynote talk. Prof. Kaifu’s speech is on an experimental voyage project to unravel mysteries of Palaeolithic voyages in East Asia. In the project, he built several kinds of ancient boats and repeatedly tested them at sea, and finally rowed a round wooden boat from Taiwan to Yonaguni Island. The story of our ancestors’ challenge to the sea 30,000 years ago is an encouraging one for us today. People have overcome difficulties all the time!
The second talk was given by Professor Blair Thornton, IIS, the University of Tokyo / University of Southampton. He talked about autonomy beyond just the platform, and discussed how technology can help to overcome bottlenecks in the flow of information generated through robotic exploration, to help build human insight in a more scalable way. At the beginning of the presentation, there was a problem with the internet connection that caused the screen to freeze, but his quick thinking saved it. The network trouble is one of the possible risks of online events, but being flexible is always important.
Underwater Video Competition
As one of the special events of UT21 Online, an Underwater Video Competition was organized. This competition aims to stimulate research and development in undersea technology and oceanographic monitoring by providing intellectual stimulation to researchers and engineers by introducing their research and attractive videos to each other. In addition, we aim to build momentum for UT21, which has been postponed for two years. UT21 online called for videos designed to promote the appeal of Underwater Technology (Undersea Engineering) to a wide audience. Specific themes and categories for the videos were as follows:
- Environmental Monitoring
- Marine Robotics
- Marine Mineral Resources
- Renewable Energy
- Marine Construction
- Observatory and Disaster Mitigation
- Fishery Engineering
- Acoustics and Communications
Category 1 – Research Presentation (submitted 12, accepted 10)
Video is expected to be of an applicant speaking on research, however, as long as the video describes the research, the format is not limited to conventional presentation style.
Category 2 – General (submitted 20, accepted 14)
Any style of presentation is acceptable. For example, trouble, funny or unusual scenes, beautiful or exciting scenes captured on video during underwater experiment.
The nominated (accepted) videos were made public in advance on the website, and the rankings were determined by voting by OES members and technical committee members of UT21 Online.
According to the results of competition, an award ceremony was held. Professor Toshihiro Maki, a Technical Program Committee co-chair of UT 21 Online, IIS, the University of Tokyo, announced the ranking, followed by the screening of the award-winning videos and short speeches by the winners. The following prizes were awarded in each category.
- Grand Prize (1 winner per category)
- Runner-up (1 winner per category)
- Young Researcher Prize (2 winners per category)
Before the closing of UT21 Online, Dr. Kawaguchi made an announcement about Underwater Technology 2023 (UT23), which will be held during March 6-9, 2023, Tokyo, Japan. He said, “I sincerely hope things will turn around so that we can have an on-site event next time.” Finally, closing remarks were given by Professor Masanao Shinohara, a general co-chair of UT21 online, Earthquake Research Institute, the University of Tokyo.
This online event was very different from the previous onsite events, and many things were new to us from the preparation stage. However, we felt that there were some advantages, such as the success of the video competition and the fact that people in distant areas, who normally have difficulty participating, could easily participate. I think it was a good experience and the most important things were to be flexible and to do our best according to the situation. Thank you very much for your participation. Looking forward to seeing you at UT23 Tokyo!