The Annual RoboBoat Competition Continues to Gain Momentum Nationally in STEM Fields

By the year 2020, half of the nation's science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) workforce is projected to reach retirement age.

As a result, events like the Annual International RoboBoat Competition has become increasing popular nationally.

This year's 7th Annual International RoboBoat Competition was held July 8-13 in Virginia Beach, Virginia at the Founders Inn and Spa. From obstacles to automated docking and acoustic beacon positioning, teams were required to complete several missions in order to claim the prize. Thirteen teams, from around the world participated in this year's event and had four days of course practice to troubleshoot system issues before entering into the qualifying sessions and the final round to compete for a portion of $20,000 in cash prizes.

Cash prizes are funded by the AUVSI Foundation and go directly to the school, usually to a robotics club or program.

The competition — sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Foundation (AUVSI) — is an autonomous robotics challenge in which teams race their student-designed and custom-built autonomous surface vehicles through buoy-marked navigation channels for a series of challenges.

"This event is ideal preparation for engineering students entering the workforce," said Daryl Davidson, executive director for AUVSI. "What we do is create a real-world environment where students have to build a boat that has all the features that are needed to do things that the commercial world wants to see happen."

An ONR release reports that before the boats can actually hit the water, however, teams must build a Web site and present a research paper to a panel of judges made up of unmanned system industry leaders.

"It gives students an opportunity to demonstrate all they learned," said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR's Sea Platforms and Weapons Division. "Their in-water performance is really important, but here, in front of the judges, it's important for them to demonstrate the academic aspects of autonomy."

This year's top winner was Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, bringing home the top prize of $6,000. The University of Florida (UF) won second place and $5,000; the University of Central Florida (UCF) took third and $3,000; and Georgia Tech came in fourth, earning $2,500. Smaller awards of $500 and $1,000 in various special award categories went to UCF, Georgia Tech, UF, and Cedarville University.

The other participating institutions included Diponegoro University, Florida Atlantic University, National Cheng Kung University, Old Dominion University, University of Texas at Arlington, University of Michigan, University of Rhode Island, and Villanova University.

Since its inaugural demonstration in 2007, nearly ninety teams have participated in RoboBoat.

Read the original article via the Homeland Security News Wire here.