Bumblebee propels to another victory

29 August 2023

28 Aug 2023 — Team Bumblebee has done it again! It clinched the top prize at the recent RoboSub2023 competition – second year in a row!

Held at the NIWC Pacific TRANSDEC Facility in San Diego, United States in August, the team displayed an impressive and formidable performance against 34 teams from 5 countries. Besides the championship title and USD$6,000 for the autonomy challenge, team Bumblebee also received USD$800 for second place in Design Documentation. They were additionally presented with the personal coin of the US Naval Operations Vice Chief, Admiral Lisa Franchetti.

Team Bumblebee is a student driven, multidisciplinary group of innovators who envision building autonomous systems of the future. With the support of the University, they design and build autonomous maritime vehicles capable of navigating underwater, on the water and in air, performing complex tasks autonomously. Presently there are 38 members – 20 from the College of Design and Engineering, nine from NUS Computing and another eight reading Computer Engineering and one from NUS Business school.

The championship vehicle, which resulted from four years of cumulative research and development, aimed to complete every task at the RoboSub competition. To prepare themselves for the competition, the team logged over 250 hours of in-water time simulating actual obstacles at the University Sports Centre swimming pool over the term holidays.

Team members fixing the front camera on AUV 4.1 before a practice session

However, the win was not without challenges. Titus Ng, Team Lead of Bumblebee Autonomous Systems cited competition stress and terrain unfamiliarity such as obstacle navigation and environmental mapping. The team suffered a nasty setback at the first semi-finals, where they scored zero points. “We had to bounce back immediately for the second semi-finals to qualify for the finals and defend our champions title,” said Titus. After a sleepless night of scrutinising code and logs to prevent a repeat of the disastrous incident, the team secured a successful second semi-finals run.

The team was also up against their two strongest competitors – the University of Alberta with its large team of 70 building a single vehicle; and the Si Se Puede Foundation from Arizona which had a large and quick vehicle that could complete tasks within a few minutes.

One of the tasks at RoboSub which requires the AUV 4.1 to surface autonomously in the octagon

“The numerous technical challenges of this competition pushed the team to our mental and physical limits. Nevertheless, we trusted each other to complete our roles to our best ability, and were rewarded with a well-deserved championship title,” said Titus. “I could not ask for a better team to work with and their passion for robotics is truly amazing.”

Throughout its 11-year history, team Bumblebee has participated in the international RoboSub and RobotX competitions, securing three championships under its belt. These competitions, which replicate the challenges faced in marine autonomy today in the fields of defence, exploration and research, are organised by Robonation and the US Office of Naval Research.

More information on the competition, team and final standings can be found at Robosub.orgPhoto credit: Bumblebee, RoboNation and Duke Robotics.  

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