Students build robotic submarines that can save lives, improve the future

On Thursday, the U.S. Navy hosted the 19th annual Robotic Submarine Competition in Point Loma.

For so many of the students, it’s not just a fun competition, where aspiring engineers get to build robots, but their ideas are capable of completing realistic missions and could really help change the world.

350 students from 50 schools representing 11 countries have been preparing for months to let their submarines shine.

“It’s open to our imagination what we can do,” Nick Lococo said.

From design to manufacturing, these teams do it all.

“It can’t weigh more than 125 pounds and there’s no limit on the cost.”

All of the tubes and wires in this year’s San Diego State sub cost $80,000. All money came from optimistic sponsors after the team took home the gold last year.

“We’re really going to change lives. We’ve seen how computers do it, and now we’re seeing how mechanics can do it,” Lococo said.

All of the hours are voluntary and don’t count for any school credit. “It’s all excitement, and hard work, and we can see how our subs compare to other designs.”

Speed isn’t the only goal under water. Accuracy and consistency earn you far more points. The autonomous sub must go in a straight line, then its eyes and ears must identify and touch the colorful cones beneath the surface. A real world example is finding a plane’s black box at the bottom of the ocean.

“If we lost something that had a pinger on it, we could send one of these down to go find it.”

Above ground, these robots could assist the Department of Defense.

“He doesn’t have to sit next to the pile of explosives anymore, he can move back to do his work and doesn’t cost a life if something doesn’t go well,” Steven Murphy said.

These bots could also just get stuff to us sooner.

“I really love robotics and one thing it’s used for is Amazon. Think about supply stores, most of that is automated. That’s where Amazon makes most of their money; it’s automated and really efficient.

Texas A&M even has an all-girls team. There’s no telling what these brilliant minds will come up with next.

“I think we’ll be pretty surprised because it’s always something surprising that’s going to change lives the most.”

The first place winners get $5,000 and bragging rights. We will announce the winner on CW6 News at 10 p.m. Sunday.

This event is free and open to the public.


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