RoboSub Competition 2020 | August 2020 Newsletter

Posted by Nigel Woodhouse on August 13, 2020

Another year has come and gone; another competition season complete. Some might say this year felt a little underwhelming; there was no trip to San Diego, no year-end party, and our new robot, Arctos, is yet to be assembled. However, despite all the difficulties this year presented, the team is proud of what it has accomplished and is in a strong position moving forward. It is our pleasure to announce the successful completion and submission of high-quality deliverables for the RoboSub 2020 Competition, namely a team website, a 15-minute video, and a technical design report. Our website is the best it's ever been. The video both fits the 1920's era theme of the competition and highlights our technical design. Lastly, Arctos is currently being machined and will open many avenues to success in future years.


July's newsletter unveiled ARVP's newest robot, Arctos! The name follows the University of Alberta's bear naming convention, as Arctos is ancient Greek for bear. The frame of Arctos is given smooth gold highlights as a nod to its predecessor Auri, named after aurum, the Latin word for gold.

Exploded view of Arctos

The mechanical team made massive strides this year in the design of Arctos. The robot comes with redesigned mechanical subsystems, such as the marker dropper release mechanism, spring-based torpedoes, and a brand new mechanical claw. The claw design involves four servos, and two sets of linkages, giving it three degrees of freedom to easily grip nearby objects. Its 3D printed manipulator can hold items without the fear of slippage.

The electrical team has been hard at work, adapting previous electronic designs to fit the new model. Exciting features include a custom battery monitoring board that provides real-time insight into power usage and prevents excessive draw on the batteries, reducing their wear and increasing their lifespan. There also exists an internal environment monitor to detect temperature and pressure. Along the hull is leak sensors. Hopefully, they will never go off. We should also be able to better detect underwater sounds with the addition of a fourth hydrophone.

The software team made incremental improvements throughout the year, including the migration to a new simulation system (Gazebo) for testing underwater missions without a pool. The simulator upgrade is a welcomed one this year because pools are closed. Arctos comes with a depth sensor, Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU), and Doppler Velocity Log (DVL). The combination of these sensors will accurately determine the robot's position, orientation, velocity, and acceleration in the pool.

Competition Criteria

Due to the pandemic, the criteria for the competition changed drastically. As no in-person event can be held, each team will be evaluated on three deliverables:

  • Website
  • Technical Design Report
  • Team Video

All deliverables were submitted August 9th. It is not yet known when the winner will be announced. You can look out for a new blog post when the results are released.


As you have probably noticed, the website you are on looks completely different to how it was two months ago. In previous years, the site was a low priority. Namely, it was just the content that was revised and not the layout nor presentation. This is a classic case of entropy; a system decays with time unless energy is put into the system.

With the addition of the Oxygen page builder, this website exceptional. While you are here, you should look out for these details; smooth page animations, complimentary colour usage, a gradient background to provide the feeling of travelling deep underwater, interactive 3D models, and robot animations. The site is now your one-stop destination for all of your ARVP needs and information.

Thank you to Adesh Sangione, Curtis Stewart, David Lenfesty, Mohammad Kebbi, Nigel Woodhouse, Nina Yang, Salina Trac, Vince Montero, Willard Farmer, and Yee Wei for your efforts building the website.

Journal Paper

It is customary to summarize the annual efforts of the team through a year-end journal paper. University of Alberta - Autonomous Robotic Vehicle Project RoboSub 2020: Arctos Awakens explores various facets of the team's mechanical, electrical, and software undertakings in detail. Additional information related to our proposed competition strategy, community outreach, Arctos' component list, and COVID-19 response is also included. 

For a detailed analysis of Arctos' design, subsystems, and technical details, the journal paper can be found here on our website. The button below will take you there quickly.

Thank you to Adesh Sangione, Connor Chin, Curtis Stewart, David Lenfesty, Gabriel Risbud-Vincent, Jason Shukla, Jenny Lee, Mohammad Kebbi, Nicholas Wengel, Salina Trac, and Willard Farmer for your efforts crafting the journal paper.

Team Video

This deliverable is the most unique. In previous years, a 3-minute video was to be crafted before the competition to highlight the team and its members while a 10-minute technical presentation is given at the competition. 

This year requires a single video to highlight the team, its members, the hypothetical competition strategy, the robot, and technical details in under 15 minutes. And boy, did we deliver! The lengthened time window allowed for creative liberties beyond a straight forward, informative presentation. It's a creative and comprehensive narrative, complete with comedy and character arcs.

At the beginning of prohibition, the engineers of ARVP pull a heist to retrieve the merchandise that will sustain them through the upcoming academic year. But when a botched escape plan leaves precious cargo at the bottom of the lake, the only rational solution is to build an autonomous underwater vehicle to retrieve it! Follow ARVP as they organize their team and build their robot, as no underwater challenge is too difficult to overcome.

This summary doesn't do the video justice, and we highly suggest that you watch the entire video on our YouTube channel, which you can access through video player above or the button below.

Thank you to Adesh Sangione, Connor Chin, Curtis Stewart, David Lenfesty, Drew Delcioppo, Gabriel Risbud-Vincent, Hersh Srivastava, Jared Schroeder, Jason Shukla, Jenny Lee, Kirill Makhachev, Mohammed Kebbi, Nicholas Wengel, Rylan Hugens, and Willard Farmer for scriptwriting, creating visuals, acting, and voiceover work.

A special thank you goes out to Nigel Woodhouse, who filmed, directed, and edited the entire video and was the creative driving force behind the script.

Saying Farewell

With another competition complete, so too does many of our member's degrees; they are moving on to bigger and better things. On behalf of ARVP, we would like to thank the following members for their dedication, inspiration, input, intellect, time, and effort they put into the team. These members include Adesh Sangione, Andrew Schroeder, Bryn Leonard-Fortune, Gabriel Risbud-Vincent, James Hryniw, Kirill Makhachev, Mohammed Kebbi, Ryan Van Drec, and Suzana Trac.

And a special farewell to Curtis Stewart, our team lead for the 2019-2020 academic year. His story with ARVP can be found in our previous blog post, which you can access through the button below.


As this year of ARVP wraps up, we would like to reach out and thank all of our sponsors that aided our engineering endeavours. Additionally, we would like to thank Dr. Bob Koch and Dr. Michael Lipsett for being our academic advisors.

Contact Us

If you wish to inquire regarding the function of the team, future sponsorships, or are interested in joining ARVP, you can reach out to us here:

Final Words

This year had its unique challenges that kept the team on its toes. Building an entirely new robot is a monumental task. Its difficulty drastically increased due to the university closing and all team activities moving to an online setting. Progress slowed. Regardless, the team pulled through and submitted quality products for this year's unique competition. Thank you again to all of our sponsors, academic advisors, and team members for a successful year.  

“I wish there was a way to know you're in the good old days before you've actually left them.” - Andy Bernard [Ed Helms] - The Office


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