Robosub 2018: Captain’s Log

Robosub 2018 was an amazing experience. After attending four Robosub competitions, I can safely say that this was one of the most amazing years for the team.

Before I get into more details, I should tell you a little bit about the competition. Starting Tuesday morning, the teams have until Thursday to qualify for the semifinals. Each qualified team gets one semifinal run on Friday and one on Saturday. The top 6-8 teams with the highest score from the two runs make it into the final on Sunday. For each semifinal run, the team chooses to flip a coin to randomize the robot’s starting position, makes a bet on red or black, and chooses the location of the acoustic pinger.

We started strong. The team assembled Auri overnight on Monday and we qualified for the semifinals on our first run on Tuesday, but things are never that easy at RoboSub. The next four days were a rollercoaster ride. One of our battery pods had a leak on our second run. The mechanical team sprung into action. Despite the fixes, we had another leak the next day. After talking to Blue Robotics (the battery pod manufacturer) it turns out that we had gotten a pod that was faulty. We had to quickly replace a couple of batteries but thankfully, due to fast adaptability of the team, none of these problems were able to slow us down.

After multiple long nights, we were ready for our first semifinals run. Ten minutes before our run we started powering up Auri, but our inertial measurement unit wouldn’t boot up. After multiple power cycles, we got it up and running. This delayed our run by 15 minutes and we were not able to score any points on Friday.

On Saturday, we were more prepared for our second semifinals run. We powered up the robot an hour in advance. Confident in Auri’s abilities, we chose to flip the coin, and we selected red for the color bet. We got tails which meant that the robot starts facing the wrong way. Auri had no problem turning and maneuvering past the gate through the right color. Auri then proceeded to go over the path. The robot then attempted to find the dice and hit them. However, as they say, all good things come to an end. Our state estimation filter had a bug; the robot went past the dice without hitting it and that marked the end of our run.

At the daily captains meeting that night, the team was pleasantly surprised to find out that we had had enough points for a ‘last chance run’ Sunday morning. We had another chance to make it into finals. Despite how tired the team was, we stayed up all night. We needed the sonar localization system to work so we wrote a triangulation algorithm by the end of the night. On Sunday morning, the lack of sleep did not dampen our moral. It was a now or never situation. Our final run started. The robot did exactly what it did last time. But then it froze. We thought it was just searching for the dice but the robot had hit a timeout; it was a mission planner bug. Our final run had ended.

This great adventure was over for ARVP. Even though we didn’t get into the finals, in my heart we won. All our new systems worked flawlessly. It was a memorable experience for the team. The team made friendships and bonds that will last for a lifetime. We will be ready for Robosub 2019. ARVP is coming for that 1st position.

By the way, did I tell you, we won the best video award. If you haven’t seen the video you should go check it out here.