Two Georgia Tech Student Teams Excel at RoboBoat Competition

Two Georgia Tech RoboBoat Teams made it to the finals in the 4th International RoboBoat Competition, held June 9-12 in Virginia Beach. Georgia Tech Aerospace System Design Laboratory placed 3rd and the Georgia Tech Savannah Robots placed 7th out of 15 university teams competing. Georgia Tech was the only school represented by two independent teams, and the first to have two teams place in the top half.

Georgia Tech Aerospace System Lab's Marine Robotics Group - June  2011
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The team's autonomous surface vehicle, Captain Planet, was designed to have superior performance, robust low-level controls and to complete the mission in the minimum amount of time, said Santiago Balestrini, a research faculty member at the Aerospace System Design Laboratory, and the team’s technical advisor.

The RoboBoat Competition is a student robotics challenge in which teams design and race autonomous surface vehicles through an aquatic obstacle course. The Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems Foundation and the Office of Naval Research jointly sponsored the event.

During this year's competition, 150 students from across the U.S., Taiwan and Indonesia competed for the title of "Best RoboBoat" and $20,000 in prize money.  The robotic boats were asked to perform a series of progressively difficult tasks that simulate the types of activities that are expected of robotic craft built for the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.

The Georgia Tech Aerospace System Design Laboratory’s Marine Robotics Group took home third place and $3,000. The team is made up of Aerospace Engineering graduate students Alan Smith, Sean Culpepper, David Moroniti, Eric Van Gehuchten and Pierre Valdez; Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate student Edward Macdonald; Computer science undergraduates Patrick Dillon and Alex Okonishnikov; Mechanical engineering undergraduates Chris Taylor and Jeff Carpenter. The team’s advisor is Professor Dimitri Mavris from the School of Aerospace Engineering.

The Marine Robotics Group’s autonomous surface vehicle, Captain Planet, was designed to have superior performance, robust low-level controls and to complete the mission in the minimum amount of time, said Santiago Balestrini, a research faculty member at the Aerospace System Design Laboratory, and the team’s technical advisor.

“Achieving the third objective proved difficult due to the complexity of these robots and the changing environmental conditions, but the team most definitely excelled in achieving the first two,” Balestrini said.  “GT-MRG’s design was the second lightest and produced more thrust than most designs, giving it a large advantage in thrust-to-weight ratio, an often neglected, yet a key performance parameter of the judge’s scoring rubric.”

The Georgia Tech Savannah Robotics team earned 7th place and $500. Advised by Fumin Zhang, assistant professor in the School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Savannah team is made up of Electrical and Computer Engineering graduate students Steven Bradshaw, Dongsik Chang, Shayok Mukhopadhyay and Klimka Szwaykowska; Computer engineering undergraduate Will Crick; Electrical engineering undergraduates Valerie Bazie, Lisa Hicks, Sean Maxon and Casey T. Smith.

The team's autonomous surface vehicle, Victoria, featured an onboard embedded computing system and a long-range wireless system, which resulted in a significant reduction in weight and helped the team advance to the final round of competition. 

 “This year’s design included a long range wireless system which prevented connectivity issues during runs,” said Shayok Mukhopadhyay, a graduate student on the team. “This saved the team mission time and enabled us to perform multiple runs within a single time slot. All of our technical changes, backed by our team spirit propelled us into the finals this year.”