By Irwin Hudson, U.S. Army Research Laboratory and Dr. Daniel Barber, University of Central Florida

The Robotics Club at the University of Central Florida, a volunteer student-run organization, supported by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, Human Research and Engineering Directorate, Simulation and Training Technology Center, took second place at the 6th Annual International RoboBoat Competition, sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International and the Office of Naval Research in Virginia Beach, Va.

Members of the University of Central Florida Robotics Club celebrate the prize money they received from a second place finish in the 6th Annual RoboBoat competition. Pictured left to right are Brandon Parmeter, Christopher Brice, Andrew Watson, and Dr. Daniel Barber.

Members of the University of Central Florida Robotics Club celebrate the prize money they received from a second place finish in the 6th Annual RoboBoat competition. Pictured left to right are Brandon Parmeter, Christopher Brice, Andrew Watson, and Dr. Daniel Barber.

This year’s event required the design of a personal watercraft capable of navigating itself through a series of tasks on the open water without any human intervention. After a long weekend of testing, fixing, and revising software, the UCF Institute for Simulation and Training team won second place and $2,000 in prize money, improving over last year’s 4th place win.

The mission included challenges that resemble real military unmanned systems operations: navigation through openings from harbor areas, channel navigation with obstacle avoidance, docking, firing at on-shore targets, and search and retrieval.

In the culminating mission of the competition, the robotic boats needed to complete six tasks, each worth a different number of points.

The first, gate navigation, required the boat to travel through two large gates 30 feet apart. Once through the gates, a series of red and green buoys marked a channel, with yellow buoys acting as obstacles to avoid or risk losing points. The channel of 10-11 green/red buoy pairs guided to the next set of advanced tasks.

The challenges were even tougher after navigating the channel; boats had to dock and deploy and deploy an amphibious robot, shoot foam darts through hula-hoops on the shoreline, capture a flag on a small boat moving on the water, identify and push a button near the shore to disable a water fountain, and identify a heated target on the shore and classify the image appearing on it.

The UCF/STTC team fought extremely hard through bad weather and hardware failures to win sixth spot in the final event during a last minute second chance round. During the final run, the vehicle, aptly named the “Grey Goose,” navigated the starting gates and channel, and finished with an attempt to shoot darts through three hula-hoop rings on the shoreline.

Even though the mission wasn’t fully completed, the team’s solid design overcame harsh conditions and new course challenges to score enough points to place second. The Robotics Club team is comprised of students from Computer, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering.

For more information about the Robotics Club at UCF visit www.robotics.ucf.edu, or contact Dr. Daniel Barber at dbarber@ist.ucf.edu. For more information about RoboBoats, visit www.auvsifoundation.org.