by by Capt. Edward Lundquist, USN (ret.)
This year, SAUC-E brought teams from around the world to compete from July 6 to July 13 in the tidal basin of NATO’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE), in La Spezia, Italy. Formerly called the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC), CMRE is a world-class scientific research and experimentation facility operating under the auspices of NATO’s Science and Technology Organization (STO). It conducts scientific research and technology development focused on the maritime domain serving all nations of the NATO alliance.
The judges recognized winners in eight specialized categories: Rookie of the Year, Design and Innovation, Engineering, Best Use of Resources, Affordability, Smart Technology, Multinational, and Best Performance in the “impress the judges” Task.
Dr. Laurent Beaudoin, an advisor to the two teams from the École Supérieure d’Informatique Electronique Automatique (ESIEA), in Paris, noted that students participating in events such as SAUC-E obtain invaluable practical experience. “Scientists are judged by the number of papers they publish about their theories. They can prove their algorithms work in a perfect environment. But these students are dealing with real currents, changing light as clouds pass over, and poor visibility in the water. They have a connection with reality that allows them to show what they can actually accomplish.”
A photo collage of the
14 robotic vehicles that competed at SAUC-E 2012.
Nevertheless, the team kept on doing whatever they could to fix the problems and get the vehicle ready to qualify. “It was still a valuable learning experience,” Griffith says, “we’re already thinking about next year.”
The winner of SAUCE-E 2012 was the SONIA AUV fielded by the team from Quebec’s ETS. Second prize went to Hanse, created by a German team from the University of Luebeck. In third place was a team from France’s École Nationale Supérieure de Techniques Avancées (ENSTA), with the AUVs Sauc’isse and Sardine. Germany’s University of Bremen came in fourth with AVALON, which had achieved the highest score in the qualifying round.
In addition to the satisfaction of bringing their underwater vehicles to the challenge and competing against the other teams, the top three finishers received €3,000, €2,500, and €2,000, respectively, to improve their equipment for future competitions. All other teams received €750 each for their effort and to encourage their continued improvement.
“The students of today are the scientists of tomorrow,” said CMRE Deputy Director Andy Pickup, “It’s rewarding to see them stretch their minds, explore new technologies and find innovative ways to solve common problems and engage the challenges placed before them.”
“I was impressed by their team spirit, teamwork, innovative creativity, and their spirit of sharing,” Pickup added, “Even though the teams are competing against one another, I have seen the cooperation between them.”
Capt. Edward Lundquist (ret.) is a principal science writer at MCR Federal in Arlington, Va.