UH Mānoa Battles In Hawaiʻi’s First International Autonomous Robotic Boat Competition

Interest in intelligent machines is growing and an international competition to build autonomous robotic systems that operate at sea has come to Hawaiʻi.

Honolulu Community College hosts the 2016 Maritime RobotX Competition at Sand Island December 11–18. Students from 13 universities around the world, including first-timer University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, will compete for $100,000 in prizes. Organizers say the best days for the public to attend are December 17 and 18, for hands on STEM activities.

UH Mānoa’s RobotX autonomous competition vessel

“It’s a unique opportunity for Hawaiʻi and Hawaiʻi’s students to participate in such a prestigious competition,” said UH Mānoa Engineering Assistant Professor A. Zachary Trimble.

The first Maritime RobotX Challenge was held in Singapore in 2014. The competition is designed to foster student interest in autonomous robotic systems, with an emphasis on science and engineering.

UH Mānoa computer science student Richard Eidswick noted,“Going through the whole process of designing something, analyzing it and bringing it actually into existence has been a wonderful experience.”

Student teams are required to use a common boat platform. They must outfit it with sensors, power, electrical propulsion, electronics, communications and software in order to complete a number of maritime related tasks autonomously.

UH Mānoa engineering student and project leader Aaron Nagamine said the project is exciting and is helping to prepare the students for the real world. “Working on something that’s state of the art, that can impact the future, that’s a huge benefit for us.”

The Hawaiʻi competition was organized by RoboNation and Navatek, with funding support from the U.S. Office of Naval Research and signature sponsor Northrop Grumman.

UH students preparing for the first international autonomous robotic vessel competition in Hawaiʻi.