We recently competed in the annual international AUVSI RoboSub competition in San Diego, CA. The competition challenges high school and collegiate teams to develop an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can perform a series of complex tasks in the TRANSDEC pool on Point Loma. Tasks range from detecting different colored buoys, dropping markers in bins, firing torpedoes, navigating to a pinging source, and moving an object from one location to another. It’s no easy task – practically any teams that make it past the buoys are guaranteed a slot in the finals, such as our friends from Carl Hayden, who finished 8th this year out of a field of 32.
Sean, Cliff, and I were the only members of the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle – University of Arizona (AUVUA) team that could make it to our rookie event, but we gave the competition our best shot and managed to qualify. Our robot, the Competitive Autonomous Task fish (or CATfish, a sort of portmanteau of our school’s mascot and the AUV’s affinity for water) managed to qualify for a semi-final run by moving through the starting gate without surfacing. We accomplished this on Friday morning after three days of intense roadblocks that prevented us from qualifying during the practice rounds. We ran one semi-final run and made it through the gate once more, collecting some points in addition to our weight bonus. Some would say we made it past the hard part: keeping the sub from sinking. The run was definitely worth the trip after seeing our hard work in the capstone course of our senior year pay off.
We didn’t manage to qualify on Saturday – a pesky Arduino issue kept the CATfish at bay while another team beat us to the last wildcard slot. This left us with two days to enjoy the San Diego beachfront weather and an assortment of robotic fascinations. Carl Hayden proceeded to qualify for the finals by driving through the gate, aligning on a marker, hitting a buoy, aligning on a second marker, and driving through the parallel parking task. Apart from participating in the finals, this is the furthest Falcon robotics has gotten in the competition, and it’s remarkable they’ve risen to the top 8 in only 3 years. We can’t wait to compete with and against them at RoboSub 17!