Triton RoboSub makes its debut at international competition

via UC San Diego

San Diego, Calif., August 21, 2019 — The UC San Diego Triton RoboSub team may be new, but they are already making a big splash. The team of 12 students was formed in 2019 and entered the International RoboSub Competition in July, qualifying for semifinals at their autonomous submarine competition debut.

The contest, held July 29th to August 4th at the Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific’s Transducer Evaluation Center pool in San Diego, requires teams of students to build an autonomous submarine capable of completing various tasks underwater.

The Triton’s sub, named Ra as a nod to the university’s sun god statue, weighs in at 35 pounds of cameras, wires, circuits and motors fully waterproofed in two cylindrical containers mounted to a carriage.

Qualifying for semifinals is an impressive feat for a first-year team.

Ra getting hoisted down into the Transdec pool for testing.

“Four months is not a lot of time to build a robot,” said Patrick Paxson, a computer science student and founder of Triton RoboSub. “A lot of teams spend maybe one or two years building their sub before they even show up.”

Since they were brand new, the team elected to focus their efforts on completing the first task of the event: teaching the submarine to autonomously drive itself to and through an underwater gate and back. 

“We only planned to go through the gate and qualify for this year, but we did that on day two of the competition,” Paxson said during the competition. “So we’re going to try and attempt the buoy challenge, which is identifying images of vampires underwater. Because we already have a lot of the pieces in place—we have a camera, we have an object detection algorithm that should work given the training data—we’re going to try and train it and test it and see what we can do by Saturday.”

The team is divided into a hardware subteam and a software subteam. It is also diverse by major, including students studying aerospace engineering, computer science, cognitive science, computer engineering and math. That interdisciplinary combination of fields lends itself well when designing such a robust and compact vehicle. 

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