20 August 2015 – The Bumblebee Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (BBAUV) team won second place as well as a cash prize of US$4,000 at the 18th Annual International RoboSub Competition that was held at the end of July in San Diego, California, USA.
The competition challenges young engineers to design and build AUVs to execute tasks in an obstacle course (that differs every year) to encourage the advancement of maritime robotics. It also provides an opportunity for these students to meet likeminded peers from other institutions around the world, as well as industry representatives from the field.
Students from the NUS School of Computing and Faculty of Engineering have teamed up for BBAUV since the project’s inception. This year there were six team members from School of Computing – Computer Science student Tan Soon Jin, Computer Engineering students Akshat Dubey, Lim Jun Jie, Gao Bo and Alex John, and, Computer Engineering alumnus Goh Eng Wei.
According to Alex, the BBAUV was the only robot that displayed the combined capability in computer vision and mechanical actuation required to complete the active manipulation hybrid tasks, and they were the only team that successfully attempted those tasks. The team managed to perform well despite having had a particularly difficult year, with their electrical systems falling apart, limited thruster speeds and hard disks that failed on all three days of the competition, resulting in a lot of work under extreme time constraints. Some of the BBAUV’s manoeuvres were even coded just before the semi-finals and finals, and there were bugs that caused their practise runs to fail.
Speaking about the overall experience, Alex said, “The primary emphasis of competitions like this is on learning and outreach. It pushes more responsibilities on a student than he or she will be exposed to in their normal curriculum and produces people who will push the envelope in the future. One of the most important aspects that students learn is to appreciate the trade-offs inherent in any system design and between various aspects of the system such as Mechanical, Electrical and Software and how they all come together to make a bench top prototype work reliably in the real world. These events also attract employers and venture capitalists. Students are exposed to many of the existing subsea and space related companies and get to interact with them on a face to face basis. This helps students to understand more about them and also with their future prospects.”
“Our faculty advisor, A/P Marcelo Ang played an important role in our achievements and advancement over the years. He has always supported our decisions and offered advice [without exception]. We will also like to thank all the staff in both Engineering and Computing, as well as our sponsors and alumni for their support towards our work,” Alex concluded.
BBAUV previously placed 7th and 5th in Robosubs 2013 and 2014, respectively.