September 2, 2014  

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National Underwater Robotics Competition to be held on Hattiesburg Campus

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Southern Miss and SeaPerch representatives gathered during the spring 2014 semester to discuss preparations for the National Underwater Robotics Championship to be held on the Hattiesburg campus. Attending the planning session were, from left, Gary Kimble, director of conference and fraternity housing at Southern Miss; Cheri Koch, special programs coordinator for the AUVSI Foundation; Andre Heath, assistant to the dean for strategic initiatives, College of Science and Technology; Dr. Tom Burke, executive assistant to the president for administration; Susan Nelson, executive director of SeaPerch programs; Sid Gonsoulin, associate vice president for student affairs; Esteban Escobar of Five O'Clock Films; Mark Crager, director of Southern Miss Recreational Sports; and Chris Hansen, technical director of SeaPerch programs. (Submitted photo)

Approximately 1,000 middle and high school students from across the country will converge on The University of Southern Mississippi’s Hattiesburg campus May 17 for the prestigious SeaPerch National Challenge underwater robotics competition.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) and managed by The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) Foundation, the event will feature 125 teams of about 8 members each, with students from across the country, along with teams from Puerto Rico and New Zealand. The competition will be held at the university’s Payne Center and Johnson Natatorium.

“Southern Miss is grateful to one of our very own alumna, Dr. Bridgette Davis, a long-time veteran of the SeaPerch program who introduced us to this very unique competition,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Joe Paul. “We're excited to be able to share Southern Miss and Hattiesburg hospitality with some of America’s brightest young students.”

SeaPerch is an easy to assemble, underwater ROV (remotely operated vehicle) built from a kit, making it an entry point for students interested in robotics. Each year, middle and high school students from across the country gather to compete in the National SeaPerch Challenge, with teams demonstrating the capabilities of the SeaPerches they built as they navigate an underwater obstacle course.

At this year’s SeaPerch National Challenge, each competition lane will be equipped with an underwater camera and monitor to capture the action. The Naval Engineering Education Center (NEEC) is sponsoring the cameras and monitors to give this year’s Challenge teams a unique underwater view of their SeaPerch during the competition.

In past years, teams have had to deal with light reflecting on the surface of the pool, making it difficult to see their SeaPerch while navigating the obstacle course or the underwater challenge course. With the addition of the underwater cameras and monitors, each team will have the benefit of being able to see their SeaPerch in action using the monitor. This camera is the only one allowed for team use and its use during the competition is optional.  In addition, the video from these underwater cameras will be used in a live webcast to give the audience a live view of the competition.

Another element of the competition is when teams display posters and deliver oral presentations about their design philosophy and construction challenges before a panel of judges.

The AUVSI Foundation focuses on the future of the robotics industry by developing programs that attract and equip students for a career in this rapidly growing field.
Through a variety of efforts, including the national competition, the AUVSI Foundation provides students with the opportunity to experience fun, hands-on robotics activities that promote STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math).

At the K-12 level, the Foundation introduces students to the wide range of robotics programs available to them, fueling their imaginations while enhancing their education. As students’ skill levels advance, the AUVSI Foundation hosts robotics competitions that challenge students to apply their engineering skills in the development of autonomous ground, air and maritime vehicles. To date, the AUVSI Foundation has awarded nearly $1 million in prize money to participating schools since the competitions began in 1991.

For more information, visit www.auvsifoundation.org/seaperch or www.seaperch.org.