Team Inspiration scores international victory!

RoboSub is an international underwater autonomous robotics competition in which college, high school and middle school students design and build their self-driving vehicles to navigate through a series of tasks. (courtesy photo)

Team Inspiration scores international victory!

By Ashley Shah 

On Aug. 30, Team Inspiration, a local robotics team composed of middle and high schoolers, took the first place overall title out of 33 teams in the international 2020 RoboSub competition. Many team members are students from Scripps Ranch. 

“We are the first team composed of middle and high schoolers in RoboSub history ever to take home first place,” mentor Alex Szeto said. 

RoboSub is a robotics competition in which autonomous underwater vehicles in a large sized pool complete tasks such as moving golf balls and hitting buoys. The competition has other components as well such as a video presentation, a website and a technical paper. 

Due to COVID-19, this year the final competition was held virtually. The team started prepping for the finals in March. 

“We met for about 10 weeks straight to prepare for the competition. During the last three weeks, we met every day and practiced all day, on some weekends making it to past midnight some nights,” team captain Colin Szeto said. 

This year, all teams were only required to present a website, video and technical paper. 

“We did a 15-minute video showing an introduction to our team and the development of the sub and the lessons we learned. The website outlines the process of completing the sub, and the technical paper shows all of the research we conducted,” Szeto said. 

Team Inspiration placed first out of 33 teams in both the technical paper report and the website presentation, and second place out of 33 teams in the video presentation. 

Those teams represented Brazil, Canada, Egypt, India, Mexico, Norway, Poland, Singapore and the United States and. All but three teams were from universities including Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, Duke, Georgia Tech, Arizona State University, SDSU, UCSD, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay and National University of Singapore.

“The virtual competition was actually something we could capitalize on. We knew that this was the year to take it all home because our team was willing to put in even more time. I couldn’t be more proud of our team. This is such an amazing accomplishment and I can’t wait to see what we accomplish next year,” Colin Szeto said. 

As this year was Team Inspiration’s second year competing in RoboSub, team members were able to build off what they learned last year. 

“We definitely relied heavily on research and other teams during our first year. However, this year our team was really self-motivated. I was happy to see that all of the team members kind of ventured out to go learn new things to help our team advance. We’ve made a lot of great progress and I know we will continue down that path,” 2019 team captain Mabel Szeto said. 

Members of Team Inspiration include from top left, inset: Ashika Palacharla, Ashiria Goel; back row: Shreyas Rangan, Eesh Vij; front row: Rishi Veerepalli, Noah Tang, Mabel Szeto, Pahel Srivastava, Aditya Mavalankar, Shruti Natala, Raina Shapur and Colin Szeto. (courtesy photo)

Team Inspiration also heavily focuses on outreach year around. 

“Currently, we are working with a local company, Purpose Robotics, to develop an affordable submarine so that schools can use them for their STEM programs. Usually, submarines are about $3,000, but we are trying to bring it down to $1,000,” outreach coordinator Eesh Vij said. 

Alongside developing affordable submarines, they are also working on other local projects.

“We’ve been working with the Ruben H. Fleet Science Center to create YouTube videos that inform people on what’s going on in San Diego in STEM,” Mabel Szeto said. 

Next year, they are hoping to accomplish even more. 

“We’ve been working alongside UCSD and USD to learn more technical skills and create more diversity in our approach,” Mabel Szeto said. 

Future team captain Ashiria Goel is excited to see what is to come next season. 

“This year we took up more advanced topics and it really helped out. I know that next year we’ll be able to accomplish even more and we’re going to be able to push the limits. Hopefully, the competition will be back to in-person and we’ll be able to apply even more knowledge into our work and presentation,” Goel said. 

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