News Article Release
Naval Academy Wins World Robotic Sailing Championship
Posted on: October 04, 2012 08:00 EDT by MC2 Alexia RiveracorreaA team of Naval Academy midshipmen took first place over MIT and numerous international programs in their class in the 5th International Robotic Sailing Championship held in Cardiff, Wales, U.K., Sept. 17-21.
The competition is intended to promote the development of autonomous wind propelled sailing robots through a series of short-distance races, navigation and autonomy challenges such as station keeping, collision avoidance and a hacker challenge in which the mids teamed up with another team to build a new boat.
The midshipmen used information learned in their naval architecture and systems engineering classes to help design and build an autonomous robotic sailboat called "Gill the Boat."
"We try to stress the idea of a multi-disciplinary approach," said Capt. Jay Bitting, director of the Engineering and Weapons Division. Midshipmen majoring in naval architecture design the boat and the hull, while systems engineering majors build the control systems and robotics required to sail it.
"It's a perfect example of the real-world engineering practice that our midshipmen get to experience first-hand working in a multi-disciplinary team" said Bitting.
In addition to high winds and engineering challenges, the midshipmen faced unforeseen logistics issues - for example, some of their equipment was held up by British customs so they had to purchase, install and test new gear in the few hours leading up to the competition.
They lost points but gained a lot of satisfaction considering they were a small team with limited funding compared to their competition, Professor Paul Miller said.
"Our team did a fantastic job," said Miller. "We were the only team to score points in every event and without a doubt, it was the best performance by our team in our five-year history."
Bitting said it's important for midshipmen to be involved in engineering competitions, whether they win or not.
"We get to compete head-to-head with other schools and learn in the process," he said. "Winning is great, but the experience for the faculty and students is what it is all about. Having the opportunity to take what you have taught and learned in the classroom, build something, and then travel and compete enhances the learning experiences."
The competition included boats from Wales, Portugal, and Germany as well as Massachusetts Institute of Technology.