Mechathon competition launched to build advanced underwater robots

17 May 2016

Cork continues to stake its claims as Ireland’s largest maritime innovation hub, with news that a number of research organisations, including the Tyndall National Institute, are running a competition to build an underwater robot as part of the Mechathon.

The Mechathon competition is a joint exercise organised by the Halpin Centre for Research and Innovation in CIT, MaREI, the Naval Service, Tyco and Tyndall, which will all put forward their best and brightest engineers to design and build the next submersible that will take to the high seas.

Starting from today (17 May), the Mechathon is inviting teams from across the country to descend upon Tyco’s offices in One Albert Quay, Cork, where they will have the chance to take part in an IdeaGEN event where they will brainstorm concepts, ideas and designs for their underwater robots.

These teams will then fine-tune their robots until July when the grand finale of the competition will take place at the Lir National Ocean Test Facility at the Beaufort Building in Ringaskiddy.

Throughout the Mechathon event, the teams will get access to the Tyndall Maker Space to build their robots and, through a partnership with the I Wish initiative, each team will be paired with a secondary school girl who will work with the teams as the summer progresses to build the robot.

Mechathon launch

At the launch of Mechathon, from l-r: Adrian Collins, Amy Garde, Niamh Cronin, Christian O’Leary and Glen Fitzpatrick. Image via John Allen

Increasing demand for advanced submersibles

The Mechathon competition to build the latest, most-advanced submersible robots comes amid ever-increasing demand for such technology to help better navigate the murky depths of the world’s oceans.

For multiple reasons, submersible robots are being recruited to go where no human can for any sustained length of time, such as hunting rusting sea mines, observing environmental changes for years at a time, laying undersea cables and searching for natural resources.

From Ireland’s perspective, previous governments have put in place the Our Ocean Wealth policy, which aims to double Ireland’s GDP taken from maritime activites by 2030 and Cork certainly appears to be at the forefront of this.

At the launch, the director of the Irish Maritime and Energy Resource Cluster (IMERC), Val Cummins, said: “In Ireland, we have a huge amount of infrastructure and expertise required to build a cluster of world standing.

“We are really excited about this competition and the opportunity it offers to showcase the talent that exists.”

Underwater robotic submarine image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic