Honolulu Hosts Autonomous Robotic Boat Challenge

More than 200 university students from around the world will converge in Honolulu for the Maritime RobotX Challenge, where they'll compete for $100,000 in prizes.

by The Honolulu Star-Advertiser / December 13, 2016

(TNS) -- More than 200 university students from across the Pacific will converge in Honolulu this week to launch autonomous robotic boats off Sand Island and compete for $100,000 in prizes.

The public is invited to check out the Maritime RobotX Challenge, which features a team from the University of Hawaii at Manoa vying against 12 other teams from the United States, Australia, Japan, Korea and Singapore.

Each team starts with a standardized boat platform, then designs an autonomous robotic system for it so the vessel can perform a series of tasks on the water on its own. Students install sensors, software, power, communications, an electrical propulsion system and buoyancy pads.

“Working on something that’s state of the art, that can impact the future, that’s a huge benefit for us,” Aaron Nagamine, a UH-Manoa engineering student, said in a news release from the university.

The competition started Sunday, and the best days for public viewing are the semifinals Saturday and finals Sunday. There will also be hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities on those days onshore for the family, such as a miniature underwater glider.

The RobotX Challenge is hosted by Honolulu Community College and will be held at its Marine Education and Training Center at Sand Island, which also is home to the Polynesian Voyaging Society.

“It’s a unique opportunity for Hawaii and Hawaii’s students to participate in such a prestigious competition,” said A. Zachary Trimble, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at UH-Manoa.

The Maritime RobotX Challenge was first staged in Singapore in 2014 and is held every two years. The competition is being organized by the nonprofit RoboNation and Navatek, with funding from the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

The lead sponsor is Northrop Grumman, with additional sponsorship by MathWorks and Marine Advanced Research Inc.

©2016 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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