Twin Tweaks ...
VETERAN COMPETITORS AMADOR VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL (TOP) AND
UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND (BOTTOM) BROUGHT LARGE CREWS TO SUNNY
NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY (TOP) AND VIRGINIA TECH (BOTTOM)
WANTED TO MAKE A STRONG SHOWING FOR THE SOUTH.
68 SERVO 09.2010
Foundation is all about the future.
The Foundation is deservedly proud of the legacy
that it has already established in 13 years. Alumni have
been handpicked by organizations like SPAWAR to take
advantage of the formidable skill set they develop
working on AUVs.
Speaking of that formidable skill set, we were
amazed by the leap forward in difficulty of the tasks
this year compared with previous years. Five years ago,
the course was based on a scenario of pipeline repair.
Teams were tasked with dropping a marker on the
orange colored section of the black pipe that signified
damage. That year, everyone had trouble with the vision
based pipe repair (an eerie premonition). Now, almost
every task has a very difficult vision component. Davidson
explained that as computing power has leapt forward
in recent years, so has the ability of the teams to create
sophisticated systems for less cash. AUVSI is constantly
resetting the bar to keep it high enough for the dedicated
veterans. The difficulty, however, is to keep the courses
challenging enough for veteran teams while still
keeping the competition accessible to rookie teams.
Despite the intensely difficult task of building an
autonomous submarine, all of the teams have a great
attitude about the competition and they realize it’s not
all about bragging rights. Many teams have the simple
goal of beating Dave’s course (Dr. Dave Novick,
Technical Director of the Foundation).
Even after spending mere minutes there, we were
really impressed by the collegial atmosphere of the
competition. Teams were always ready to help with an
extra tool or troubleshooting advice. Davidson says that
the Foundation would love to take credit for the
cooperative atmosphere, but all the credit belongs to
the students. We suppose that such an organic growth
of collegiality seems like a natural consequence of the
comprehensive program that AUVSI has created.
In addition to building the robots, teams have to
make engineering presentations, write journal articles,
create team websites, and reach out to companies to
form a sponsor network. AUVSI really captures every
aspect of the professional engineering process, and
that process demands teamwork. Not only do these
tasks facilitate the development of well rounded
engineers, they also provide a way for rookie teams
perhaps intimidated by the difficult technical challenge
to still be competitive. Teams that need a few years to
sort out machine vision can still create professional level
journal articles and engaging technical presentations.
Davidson appropriately refers to the AUV Competition
as a “small business incubator” and after meeting the
teams, we couldn’t agree more.
Deep Blue Pool
This year’s tasks were horrifyingly difficult and
inspired by the horror classic Friday the 13th. We