Despite hardware issues early on in the week, the Robotics Club at UCF had a spectacular run during the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) and the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) 6th Annual International RoboBoat Competition. The team’s performance won them second prize and $2,000 from the AUVS Foundation.

Held at the Founders Inn and Spa in Virginia Beach, Va., the International RoboBoat Competition challenges student teams to race autonomous surface vehicles (ASV) – vehicles that operate on the surface of the water without a crew – of their own design through an aquatic obstacle course.

The competition’s maritime obstacle course included an optional navigation channel and advanced challenges that include: docking and deploying an amphibious robot, shooting foam darts through hula-hoops on the shoreline, capturing a flag that was moving on a small boat, identifying a push button near the shore and depressing it, and identifying and classifying a heated target on the shore.

Sponsored by the Army Research Lab’s Simulation and Training Technology Center (STTC) and UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training (IST), students from the Robotics Club at UCF worked on their boat’s design for the past year. They made improvements in hardware and software to last year’s entry, the Grey Goose, which won fourth place.

The team struggled early on in this year’s competition with a hardware issue that caused the robot’s motor to cut-off during runs early in the week. The team persevered and perfectly navigated the channel in the final round, winning them second place.

Teams were judged based on their performance during the course, in addition to utility of their team website. Teams were also required to submit a ten page journal paper and presentation video for evaluation by the judges. The paper described the design of the vehicle and rationale behind the design choice.

The competition was created in 2008 as an opportunity for students to develop skills in systems engineering by accomplishing realistic missions with ASV’s. The competition’s goal is to get young engineers excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

The competition draws entries from all over the world. Competitors included teams from Bradley University, Cedarville University, Electronic Engineering Polytechnic Institute of Surabaya, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Florida Atlantic University, National Cheng Kung University, Old Dominion University, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of Rhode Island, University of Texas at Arlington and Villanova University.

The Robotics Club at UCF includes:  Brandon Parmeter, UCF student and team captain; Andrew Watson, UCF student and lead software developer; Christopher Brice, UCF student; and Daniel Barber, Ph.D., a research associate at UCF and faculty advisor for the team.

“Competition this year was extremely competitive,” said Barber. “Despite challenges and bad weather, our team persevered and excelled. As always, we’d like to thank all our supporters from STTC and IST. The experience the students receive is invaluable, and it wouldn’t be possible without the help of our supporters.”