Underwater battle of the future underway

350 high school, college students competing

SAN DIEGO - About 350 high school and college students have come from around the world to take part in an underwater battle of the future.

The 19th annual International Robotic Submarine Competition has kicked off at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific in Point Loma.

They developed autonomous underwater vehicles, which the Navy is putting to the test in an underwater obstacle course.

"We're coming from college station from Texas A & M," Leah Murff said. "Whoop."

She was watching a screen while her teammates went to work.

"I'm watching the batteries because batteries can start fires, and we don't want to be the first female team to start a fire!" she said with a laugh.

"I like the power part," Murff explained. "I want to work in power generation distribution."

Think of a robot arm. She does not want to build the arm. She wants to pump power into it and bring it to life.

The Navy will watch them navigate through an underwater obstacle course. Standout innovations could be incorporated into naval warfare.

Murff said engineering is largely still a man's world.

"Like in my classes I'll only see like two or three girls," she added.

They are bucking that trend with the competition's first all-women's team.

"Building this ourselves without any guys being like, 'Oh, we did it: it was us,' it's like… no we did this!" she said. 

However, it is their first robotic rodeo.

"I'm kind of nervous," Murff said.

They are not even hoping to rope the championship on Sunday.

"Frankly, I think our goals were not leak, not start a fire and go in a straight line," She explained. "We've got two of those down so far, so we're headed in the right direction."

The winning team will receive $5,000 from the Office of Naval Research.

The competition is free and open to the public this weekend with the championships on Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

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