Roboboat 2023

Competition strategy and team progress

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2023: The Phoenix

Rising from the ashes of defeat and disorder following the pandemic, the phoenix soars to competition this year with renewed pride, a greater sense of togetherness, and a singular focus: to compete hard while having fun.

After a hard-fought competition the previous year, the team chose to focus on four principles for this year: decoupling, reliability, maintainability, and performance. Not only was the AI pipeline decoupled and tested separately, but nearly all major components of the boat could be separated, making it extremely modular and maintainable. It was the first year that the team tested in the Marine Hydrodynamics Laboratory, and did so for over 100 hours. In addition, it was the first year that the boat was made out of carbon fiber from scratch - from the painstaking mold making, preparation, and vacuum resin infusion - in order to produce a boat that weighed less than 60 pounds while still delivering impeccable results.

Competition Strategy

Team Focus

For this competition season, our team decided to reuse the Flying Sloth hull from our 2017 competition. This allowed for greater focus on testing and on learning skills that the team lost due to the graduation of more experienced members and the lack of in-person opportunities the last 2 years due to covid.

Thrust-to-Weight Ratio

The usage of foam hulls instead of carbon fiber hulls means that the boat is heavier. To account for this, more thrusters are used, and we decided on using a six-thruster setup.

Prioritization of Challenges

High Priority Challenges


Magellan's Route / Count the Manatees & Jellyfish

Description: The ASV passes through between multiple sets of gates (pairs of red and green buoys) The ASV also avoids intermittent yellow buoys (jelly fish) and black buoys (manatees) of various sizes and counts them

Analysis: The challenge requires minimal external hardware or software development and mainly just involves careful navigational operability and fine motor control. This challenge could be tested and fine-tuned early in the development process.

Goal: 9 out of 10 successful runs


Northern Passage Challenge

Description: The ASV enters the gate buoys, maneuvers around the mark buoy, and exits thought the same gate buoys, as quickly as possible. The timer starts when the bow (front) crosses the gate buoys and stops when the stern (back) crosses the gate buoys.

Analysis: Based on the 2019 score-sheet, a time between 25-45s is needed to remain competitive in the Snack Run challenge, with the fastest 2019 run coming in at 27 seconds.

Goal: 9 out of 10 successful runs + baseline of 35 seconds, goal of 26 seconds

Medium Priority Challenges


Beaching & Inspecting Turtle Nests

Description: Before the time slot starts, teams are assigned a color and must dock at the bay with the matching color. Once the ASV detects and enters the docking bay, it must report the number of "eggs" (number of circles) in the nest.

Analysis: This challenge is a bit more involved in terms of CV and color/shape recognition but does not require external hardware development

Goal: 9 out of 10 successful runs


Feed the Fish

Description: The ASV detects the "feeding table" (purple frame), then lines up and shoot three "pellets" (racquetballs) through the frame into any of the three holes. Points are awarded if the ball is fired into any of the holes but less points are awarded for just landing the ball on the deck.

Analysis: As both the Water Blast and Feeding the Fish are new challenges, UM::Autonomy chose to only focus on completing the Water Blast challenge this year, though work was done throughout the year to complete the Skeeball task in the future.

Goal: N/A


Ponce de Leon / Fountain of Youth

Description: The ASV detects the target face (blue/white striped) and shoots enough water through the target to raise the ball above the green line in the pipe. The ASV may pump the water from the environment or store it on board.

Analysis: This is the first season with this challenge and hardware and software development of external mechanisms pushed back actual testing. Therefore, we knew that immediate mastery of this task would be difficult and time consuming, and should only be attempted after other challenges.

Goal: 3 out of 5 successful runs

Low Priority Challenges


Ocean Cleanup

Description: The ASV detects an underwater pinger which designates the area to collect "debris" (raquetballs) from. The ASV may then use the collected balls as extra balls in the Feed the Fish challenge.

Analysis: As this task is a new challenge, UM::Autonomy chose to focus on completing the Ponce de Leon challenge and Feeding the Fish challenge for this year, though work was done throughout the year to complete the Ocean Cleanup task in the future.

Goal: N/A