URI ocean engineering students' submarine sinks competition
Team beats best engineering schools in North America
KINGSTON, R.I. -- July 12, 2000 -- Four students studying ocean engineering
at the University of Rhode Island sunk the hopes of students from 11 other
schools to win the third annual International Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
Competition, held July 7 through 9 in Orlando, Fla.
Sponsored by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and the Association for
Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, the event challenged student engineers
to build a miniature robotic submarine that could find and identify a sunken
acoustic beacon and strobe light. Once launched, the subs had to complete
the mission without any external guidance or control.
The ability to deploy autonomous systems that can self-navigate, collect
information and function independently of human assistance will allow for
significant advances in current ocean operating systems. These technologies
are used by companies and governmental agencies that conduct deep ocean
operations and environmental monitoring.
The URI team consisted of team captain Ryan Freke of Bozeman, Mont.,
Rich Bashour of Great Barrington, Mass., Jaki Foran of Warwick, and Scott
Veitch of Belle Mead, N.J. The team's faculty adviser was Jim Miller, associate
professor of ocean engineering. Team member Ed King of Coventry died prior
to the championship competition. The team was chosen in May after a year
long sophomore course in ocean engineering design.
"The judges loved us!" said Miller. "Not only were we
the only team to accomplish the mission, but they were impressed by our
design and materials. We were the unanimous choice of the judges."
Representatives of the Navy, the National Science Foundation, the Monterey
Bay Aquarium Research Institute and other marine institutions served as
The URI vehicle was 5 feet long, weighed 26 pounds and cost approximately
$1,000 to build. The vehicle was equipped with a pair of Lego Mindstorm
RCX computers for navigation and control. The teams that tied for second
place, Cornell University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
spent about than $50,000 each on their entries and needed a crane to deploy
their 200-pound vehicles in the water. MIT won the event in 1998 and 1999.
"We were clearly the underdog in the competition, since this was
our first year participating," Miller said. "Our team and our
budget was much smaller than that of the other competitors."
The competition consisted of a journal paper describing how the vehicle
was designed (submitted in June); a visual display and inspection of the
vehicle for technical merit, design, safety and craftsmanship; and the actual
underwater competition held in a pond at Disneyworld's Coronado Springs
Resort. Each team had 45 minutes to prepare and deploy their vehicle.
"It was really frenzied during the competition, with lots of last-minute
revisions and reprogramming of the vehicles," explained Miller. "Some
entries immediately sank, others withdrew before they even got to the water.
Ours was the only one to complete the mission."
A team of elite divers from the Navy Experimental Diving Unit in Panama
City, Florida, supported the event by installing the underwater beacons,
handling vehicle launch and recovery, and tracking the vehicles during the
"Our sub sometimes got away from the divers by going fast and deep,
but they took it as a challenge," said Miller. "They really enjoyed
swimming along with it."
The URI team won $4,000 in prize money.
"Winning was bittersweet for us. We lost team member Ed King in
May after the URI competition. The team dedicated the effort and the win
to his memory."
# # #
For Further Information: Todd
For more URI news visit: www.news.uri.edu