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CHIPS Articles: RoboSub 2017 kicks off 20th year of unmanned, underwater robotics competition

RoboSub 2017 kicks off 20th year of unmanned, underwater robotics competition
By Patric Petrie, SSC Pacific lead staff writer - July 27, 2017
An international covey of robotics and engineering students is massing at Space and Naval Warfare System Center Pacific’s (SSC Pacific) Transducer Evaluation Center pool to advance their knowledge and experience with autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) during the 20th Annual International RoboSub Competition, July 26-30, in San Diego, California.

The competition, sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Foundation/RobotNation, features student-designed and — built vehicles navigating their way through SSC Pacific’s acoustically perfect research pool while completing a difficult series of visual — and acoustic-based tasks.

More than 300 students (44 college and high school teams from eight countries) will compete to design and build a vehicle from scratch, write a technical paper, make a presentation before a panel of judges, create a short video, and develop a website that documents their progress.

San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer will greet participants at the free and open to the public event at 10 a.m. Friday, July 28, with a short welcoming speech.

The goal of the annual RoboSub competition is to advance the development of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) by challenging a new generation of engineers to perform realistic missions in an underwater environment. The event also serves to foster ties between young engineers and the organizations developing AUV technologies. The event is an important key to keeping young engineers excited about careers in science, technology, engineering, and math and has been tremendously successful in recruiting students into the high-tech field of maritime robotics.

SeaPerch, a hands-on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) exhibit, an innovative underwater robotics program that trains teachers to teach their students how to build an underwater remotely operated vehicle (ROV) in an in-school or out-of-school setting will be demonstrated onsite July 28-30.

Students build an ROV from a kit of low-cost, easily accessible parts, following a curriculum that teaches basic engineering and science concepts with a marine engineering theme. The SeaPerch Program is funded by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). The goal of this effort is to encourage the next generation of naval architects, marine engineers, naval engineers, and ocean engineers. SeaPerch is managed by the AUVSI Foundation.

The Transducer Evaluation Center (TRANSDEC) pool is filled with six million gallons of water; built in 1964; 300 feet x 200 feet x 38 feet deep; simulates vast underwater expanse. The pool’s design eliminates all extraneous man-made or natural biologic noises and permits precise control of surface and underwater conditions (not required for the competition).

The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides primary funding for the annual RoboSub Competition. The signature industry sponsor of RoboSub is Northrop Grumman. Additional sponsors include MathWorks, General Atomics, SolidWorks, VideoRay, ElectroCraft, Teledyne Marine, BlueRobotics, Fischer Connectors, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, SeaDrone, SpaceX, Hyperloop One, and PMS 408. Local partners include the AUVSI San Diego Lindbergh Chapter and SPAWAR.

Live coverage of this event will be featured on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. A live webcast of the competition finals can be viewed online at on Sunday, July 30 from 1 to 5 p.m., PST.

About AUVSI Foundation and RoboNation

RoboNation was created by the AUVSI Foundation, a nonprofit, charitable organization established to support the educational initiatives of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI). As a non-profit educational foundation, the primary mission is to develop future generations of scientists and engineers focused on robotics and to facilitate interaction between the academic community, government and industry.

RoboNation is a robotics community built to represent the force behind the next generation of builders, creators and engineers. RoboNation reaches all levels of robotics by offering a wide range of educational and interactive opportunities. From hands-on educational programs to multi-disciplinary robotics competitions, students create and experiment while learning; they wonder what is possible, and test the limits of the imagination. (

For more information about the 20th International RoboSub Competition, visit For information about SSC Pacific, visit

2017 Participating Teams (44 teams; 8 countries)


  • École de Technologie Supérieure
  • McGill University
  • St. George’s School
  • University of Alberta
  • University of Victoria


  • Harbin Engineering University
  • Northwestern Polytechnical University, AUV Team
  • Northwestern Polytechnical University, NACIT


  • Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
  • SRM University


  • Kyushu Institute of Technology


  • Far Eastern Federal University, Institute for Marine Technology Problems
  • Maritime State University (G.I. Nevelskoy)


  • National University of Singapore
    • THAILAND (1)

      • Kasetsart University

      USA (29)

      • Amador Valley Robotics Club
      • Beaver Country Day School
      • California Institute of Technology
      • California State University, Los Angeles
      • Coleman University
      • Cornell University
      • Duke University
      • East Los Angeles College
      • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
      • Georgia Institute of Technology
      • Kennesaw State University
      • Montana State University
      • Oregon Institute of Technology
      • Prairie View A&M University
      • San Diego City College
      • San Diego Robotics 101
      • San Diego State University
      • Texas A&M University
      • The Ohio State University
      • University of Arizona
      • University of California, Riverside
      • University of Colorado Boulder
      • University of Florida
      • University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
      • University of Maryland
      • University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez
      • University of Southern California
      • Utah State University
      • Washington State University
U.S. Navy photo courtesy of SSC Pacific.
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