Off the deep end: University of Alberta students test robot submarine for competition
The first thing to do when you have a robot worth tens of thousands of dollars might not be to drop it in the water — but a University of Alberta student team is doing just that.
The Autonomous Robotic Vehicle Project (ARVP) team spent Saturday afternoon testing underwater robot Auri 2.0 for the last time before they compete in the International RoboSub Competition in San Diego starting July 29.
“The competition is essentially an obstacle course that our robot has to solve without any intervention from us,” ARVP alumni advisor Rumman Waqar said Saturday from the deck of the Kinsmen Sports Centre pool.
The autonomous underwater vehicle will compete against the subs of 57 other teams from around the world. The entries must complete a variety of tasks underwater, which are worth points in addition to those for style.
The U of A team has already pre-qualified for the competition, but that doesn’t mean their work is over. Auri 2.0, which is competing for the third and final time, has been taken “the last mile” by the team since the 2018 competition, but Waqar noted that anything can still happen.
“No matter how prepared you are, things do come up,” he said. “And I think that’s what differentiates teams who win and teams who don’t — just being ready for anything.”
Of the team’s 50-plus members, 16 will travel to California for a week of trials and competitions. Even though the project is housed under the Faculty of Engineering, not all of the students are engineers. Those from business and computer science are also involved in the creation and management of the robot, which is particularly challenging because it needs to work underwater.
“With robots out of water, you have GPS … but with underwater, you don’t have things like that,” Waqar said.
Computer science student Noni Hua, who has been the software team lead since 2017, has been fine-tuning the code that allows the robot to move in multiple directions at once, which will help the team earn style points in competition with barrel rolls and other tricks.
“Right now just from today’s test, we are doing very well,” Hua said Saturday, noting that adequate underwater vision is also a major challenge. “It’s the best we have done so far and I’m really happy that I have such a talented team to work with.”
The team is aiming to finish in the top five, which would be an all-time record for the project founded in 1996.
“We’re very confident in our system so we know that it’s going to work,” said Hua. “I have lots of faith in my team members.”