Engineering SailBOT team wins international sailing competition

Jul 20th, 2015

By Jackey Locke

Petunia II
Engineering SailBOT team wins international sailing competition

Last month, Memorial hosted the 9th International Robotic Sailing Regatta (IRSR) and the MUN SailBOT team with its sailBOT, Petunia II, sailed through to first place, beating out five other teams to become the 2015 champions.

For the annual IRSR competition, university, college and high school teams test their robotic sailboats, known as SailBOTs, that they designed and built prior to the competition. Students from competing schools use this friendly competition to apply their engineering knowledge in multi-disciplinary tasks that require mechanical, electrical and software skills in a highly variable sailing environment.

“The SailBOTs are designed to sail robotically, or unmanned, by making their own on-board decisions about sail trim and course direction without human assistance,” said Justin Royce, MUN SailBOT team member and electrical lead. “For the competition, the boats are tested through a series of challenges with limited, if any, human control. Each task completed earns the team points.”

Some of the highlights for the MUN SailBOT Team included a fleet race on day two and the long-distance race on the final day. For the fleet race, boats were tasked with passing through the start line, around a buoy and back through the start line while being remotely operated. Memorial lost the first fleet race by a few seconds to Queen’s University, but was the only team to complete the second fleet race. For the long-distance race, which is the ultimate test of the competition, SailBOTs were tasked to remotely sail as long as possible completing total of five laps around a course.

“We won the long-distance race which enabled us to win the competition,” said Adam Day, team captain. “The Queens University sailBOT had completed one lap around the course when it experienced rudder failure. Up to this point, Queen’s University was in the lead, which meant that the team from Memorial would have to complete at least three laps in order to earn the most overall points to win the competition. It was a very difficult challenge since no other team has successfully completed more than one lap, or even managed to sail autonomously. But, we did it! After three hours on the water, Petunia II autonomously rounded the last buoy for its third lap just as time ran out for the challenge.”

Amidst roaring cheers from the dock, the Petunia II sailed to the finish line earning the MUN SailBOT Team a first place win at the 2015 IRSR. Memorial has been competing in this international competition for six years, but this is the first time that Memorial has won.

Dr. Greg Naterer, dean, Engineering and Applied Science, is proud of the MUN SailBOT Team and its success at the 2015 IRSR competition.

“Congratulations to the team!” said Dr. Naterer. “Our students worked very hard to prepare for this international competition and it was rewarding for them and for us to win against five other teams from around the world.”



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