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WSU students build a robosub

The robosub on a test run at the Albrook Hydraulics lab

A group of computer science and electrical engineering seniors at Washington State University is building an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), otherwise known as a robosub.

The underwater robot will be entered this July in the 15th International RoboSub Competition. The contest, in San Diego, is co-sponsored by the AUVSI Foundation and the U.S. Office of Naval Research.

AUVs are far more practical than the battlebots you might see on cable TV. Robosubs were used to investigate the damage from the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

WSU electrical engineering student Ben Brand says the robot is designed to make its own decisions.

At the competition in San Diego, Brand says the robot will have to complete a variety of tasks, including "launching torpedoes, locating certain acoustic objects and picking up and manipulating certain objects in a test pool."

How do you test an underwater robot when you're surrounded by the wheat fields of the Palouse? WSU's Albrook Hydraulics Lab has a massive water tank.

The robot is still in the testing phase, which means it's controlled and powered through umbilical cables. But when it's finished, they'll "cut the cord". The robosub will have to figure out how to accomplish its missions without any humans at the controls.

You can see video of the robot in action on the team's YouTube page.



Dave Meyer has been anchoring KNKX news shows since 1987. He grew up along the shores of Hood Canal near Belfair and graduated from Washington State University with degrees in communications and psychology.