The Singapore Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Challenge (SAUVC) 2017, IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society,
Singapore Chapter

                         

The Singapore AUV Challenge (SAUVC) 2017
The IEEE OES Singapore Chapter organised its fifth SAUVC event during 10th to 12th March, 2017 jointly with the Singapore Polytechnic. The swimming pool based event was held at the Olympic size swimming pool available at the Singapore Polytechnic. This year’s event was notable due to the presence of a record number of teams including many newcomers. The local participation level also went up and even teams at high school level competed against well-established international teams at the undergraduate and graduate level. This is a strong indicator of the growing importance of the competition and its acceptance among international student community. We had teams as far as from USA and Russia and also a strong representation from the region with teams from China, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. A post event workshop on AUV technologies was another speciality this year and the details on the same has been covered in a separate report. Yet another hallmark of this competition is that there is no registration fee required to participate in the event so that it can attract more teams locally and from the region. A summary of the SAUVC 207 event is covered in the ensuing paragraphs.

Student Teams
This year we had 28 teams who expressed interest and registered initially for the event. Due to technical reasons and also due to lack of sponsorship towards travel, many of the teams could not make it for the event. Still we had 13 international student teams comprising of 117 student participants who turned up at the event. By far this was the largest contingent of participants in the history of SAUVC. A list of teams who participated in the SAUVC 2017 and their country of origin is given below. As we can see we had a good local and regional representation.

Girl power: One of our volunteer divers with the team from Paya Lebar Methodist Girls School (left) and University of Teknologie, Malaysia team members carrying their AUV to the pool.

No dearth of creativity: Some of the AUV designs.
More creative designs. One of the AUVs on course
to pass through the gate (right).

The Tasks and Qualification Requirements
To win, the AUV was required to complete a series of tasks which involved submerging from a given location, passing a gate, dropping a ball into a bucket and reacquiring it, bump against a flare holding a ball resulting in the ball drop and finally surface. For the task ‘dropping the ball into the bucket and reacquiring it’, the AUV had a choice to select the bucket. A bucket marked with a pinger carried maximum points. There was no line following available for the AUV beyond the buckets and hence they had to navigate using dead-reckoning towards the flare. Surfacing at any point during the run will be considered as end of the run. The team may attempt as many runs as they wish if the time allocated to them is not exceeded. All the tasks were similar to the past year’s competition except that a new task of reacquiring the dropped ball from the bucket was added as an additional task. The tasks in principle covered fundamentals of navigation using both visual and acoustic cues as well as controls required to achieve them. The complete rule book detailing the tasks was made available to the teams at the time of annou ncement of the competition. A copy of the same is still available for download at the related website www.sauvc.org.
     In order for a team to qualify for the final round the minimum requirement was that the AUV be able to complete a straight run of 25m underwater. We also made it a rule that in order for the team to receive a certificate of participation, they should have ‘contested’ in the competition or send us a video of their AUV running under water for 10 seconds. This was to assess the readiness of the team and also thus to estimate the number of teams who are likely to show up. Nine teams submitted their videos online.
     Points were awarded for each successful task completion and penalties were imposed if the AUV (or the team) flouted any of the rules or specifications listed in the rule book. Out of the 13 teams, the following teams made an entry into the final round (in alphabetical order).

Bogor Agricultural University
Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering
Far Eastern Federal University/Institute of Marine Technology Problems
National University of Singapore, Singapore
Northwestern Polytechnical University
Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary)
Prairie View A&M University
Singapore Polytechnic
University Teknikal Malaysia Melaka
University Teknologi Malaysia

Team performance
None of the teams was able to complete all the tasks. The only team who managed to do all the tasks did so with many penalties. Most teams were only able to do only the first task, passing the gate. Compared to previous years, this was a below par performance. Nevertheless there was no lack of spirit or excitement and it was meagre misfortune (or shall we call it Murphy’s law?) that some of the teams, who performed well in previous competitions, could not complete all the tasks. This also made it difficult for the judges in identifying best performers and awarding them the prize. Apart from the points earned, prizes were awarded also taking into consideration the risks the teams had undertaken in attempting difficult tasks though the penalties may have pulled down their scores. This was in accordance with the objectives of the competition to encourage teams to attempt as many tasks, even if they may fail, rather than attempting to score more points through easy tasks. Though there were no clear winners, the following teams were awarded prizes as a token of appreciation of their performance during the competition (see the list below).

Team with maximum tasks accomplished ($3,000):
Northwestern Polytechnical University, China

Fastest completion of task 1, passing through the gate: Joint Winners (S$1,500 each):
Far Eastern Federal University/Institute of Marine Technology Problems, Russia and
Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering, Pakistan

Youngest finalist team (S$500):
Paya Lebar Methodist Girls’ School (Secondary), Singapore

Spectators catching action under water over a TV screen. Underwater cameras were used to capture the AUV tasks in real-time and stream it over cable to the TV screen.

Photo Competition on Facebook
Last year, we started an AUV Facebook photo competition as a way to involve supporters of student teams and saw a huge deluge of social media publicity for our event through this exercise. Riding on the success, the contest was held again this year and got great response. There were multiple photos posted by different teams which saw a large number of ‘likes’ and surge in visibility for our social media platforms in a way we have never experienced before. The team, Center for Advanced Studies in Engineering, Pakistan, posted a photo on FB which garnered over 5,800 ‘likes’ by the scheduled cut-off time on day 4, and won them the S$500 cash prize. The winning photo, smartly framed in the foreground of a banner placed at the competition venue, is shown below.

The photo that won the Facebook photography competition.

Membership Drive
Since last year, we have been organising special membership drives during the SAUVC events. This was done by spreading awareness through posters and handing out leaflets on the benefits of IEEE and OES memberships. Many students signed up for a one year free student membership offer. The list was sent to Mr Robert L Wernli Sr, VP for Professional Activities, IEEE OES, who as usual was quick to recommend and pass it to the IEEE HQ for further actions. The formation of a student chapter in Singapore will be explored if we manage sufficient number of students who have been successful in obtaining the membership.

Feedback
Feedback was sought from the teams through an online survey and we received 32 responses. In general, the feedback was very positive; the participants opined that the event was a great learning experience for them and it was well organized. There were some suggestions and comments which need to be addressed and the committee has taken note of the same. Below are the responses received against the feedback questions.

1)  How likely would you recommend this event to your friends and classmates?

2)  How do you rate the organization of the event?

3)  How did you find the pace of the competition?

4)  Do you feel that the event has provided a good learning experience for you?

5)  Were the competition rules clear and easy to understand as provided in the rule book?

6)  How did you find the difficulty/complexity of the AUV tasks?

Sponsorship
The SAUVC event is run primarily using sponsorship monies and this year also we had a number of companies supporting us. We had some regular sponsors and some new sponsors. In recognition of their sponsorship, we had displayed their logos at the event site and announced their names during the prize presentation ceremony. Many sponsors were happy about the event and promised that they would consider sponsoring future events. Nevertheless it may not be feasible to depend on a small pool of sponsors and go back to them every year. We believe the question of sponsorship will be addressed during the International Coordinating Committee meeting, Autonomous Marine Vehicles Student Competition in Porto, Portugal.

            

Acknowledgements
We were honoured to have Dr. William J. Kirkwood (aka Bill), Senior R&D Engineer from MBARI, USA, for the fourth time as our chief guest for the event. Bill is also the Treasurer of IEEE OES. Bill has been regularly supporting OES Singapore chapter for SAUVC every year. His enthusiasm and amicability at the event has drawn many students to seek his advice when they face issues with their robots, and it is not uncommon to find them taking tips from Bill on issues like water-sealing and buoyancy of their robots. Bill also gave a talk organised as part of the workshop on AUV technologies. Our sincere thanks to him and we hope he would continue to grace the occasion during future SAUVC events. We also wish to place on record our sincere thanks to the two invited guest speakers, Prof Stefan Williams, Sydney University, Australia and Prof Nikola Miskovic, Croatia, both of whom also served as judges for the competition.
     Our thanks are also due to the various sponsors who wholeheartedly supported the event. Many of them also came and participated in the event which showed their commitment to the event beyond financial support.
     Though the SAUVC committee is made up of largely volunteers from the IEEE OES Singapore Chapter, we were lucky to have some non-members as well taking up the responsibility. Many of them worked in the committee since 2013 helping out on registration, judging, team liaison, web hosting, diving and task set up in the pool etc., and also as game master who managed the teams in the game arena. While we continue to engage them for future competitions, we also take this opportunity to invite them to be part of IEEE OES which would help them to play a bigger role. We also highlight the fact by joining IEEE and OES, the small financial contribution that they make as membership fee would go to support these kind of events in a large way. We hope that more of the non-member volunteers would contribute to this cause by becoming members.


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