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4 Min Read

Underwater Robotics Heads to RoboSub 2020

UAT makes students’ dreams a reality.


While in high school, Garren Koller started an underwater robotics club with the dream of joining the RoboSub competition. That dream didn’t pay off in high school, so Garren brought it to college with him.


After coming to UAT, Garren spoke with faculty about attending RoboSub. UAT took Garren’s idea to the next level by creating an underwater robotics class to accomplish that goal. The class is taught by Joseph Horne, who is also their coach for the competition. 


Brandon Michelsen, Ke’Ondrae Mell and John McIntosh share Garren’s interest in robotics. While Garren is the lead, the group works as a team, not relying on one designated person directing the others.


The photographed prototype is made up of a kit of fill pumps, PVC pipe, cables and wires. The prototype swims and can be programmed using microcontrollers. PLC was used to program the motors, which eventually were replaced by motor controllers.


The competition robot will be about three times larger than the prototype and fully autonomous. The team is using CAD modeling in full detail to concept designs.


A series of sensors and computer vision will be used, with the possibly of cameras being implemented to add visual capabilities for full autonomy.


The robot is meant to be completely hands off once it’s programmed to navigate itself through underwater courses.


Skills such as developing firmware for small embedded computers, programming, fabrication and electrical skills were necessary for developing the underwater robot.


While the future for this robot is a strong presence at RoboSub 2020, there are many opportunities for autonomous navigation in robotics.


With a great deal of research being conducted concerning part of a subfield of research called SLAM (simultaneous localization and mapping), autonomous navigation is becoming a large part of robotics. Government is funding projects like the DARPA challenges because the navigation portion has huge applications to search and rescue, military, space exploration and any kind of robotics subfield that requires autonomous navigation.


Team Members:

Garren Koller, Robotics and Embedded Systems, Digital Maker and Fabrication

Ke’Ondrae Mell, Robotics and Embedded Systems, Digital Maker and Fabrication

Brandon Michelsen, Robotics and Embedded Systems, AS Advancing Computer Science, AS Artificial Intelligence

John McIntosh II, Robotics and Embedded Systems



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