Deep Ocean Research and Robotics Competition 2017


The Museum of Science Fiction believes that science fiction is rich with ideas that can serve as a springboard for curiosity and project-based learning activities. Based on the belief that science fiction holds educational value for all ages, the Museum and its partner organizations will endeavor to develop and tailor our educational competitions to appeal to a wide variety of students, as well as the general public.

The Museum of Science Fiction’s Deep Ocean Research and Robotics Competition aligns with its educational vision and encourages innovative thinking. This competition is open to all high school students. Student teams from the United States or abroad can participate.

About the Museum
The Museum of Science Fiction is a 501c(3) nonprofit organization that seeks to make a measurable positive impact on STEM-related educational activities.

Advances in low-cost, high-performance consumer electronics and the rise of Do It Yourself technologies bring launching a submersible robot within reach of all of us. With this new opportunity in mind, we propose a competition in which high school students compete to offer the most compelling concept for new submersible robots, to be implemented, built, and launched by the Museum and its partner organizations.

For purposes of the competition, deep ocean robots are remote controlled platforms or autonomous vehicles that conduct the following oceanographic activities: exploration, marine research, ecological study, and environmental protection and monitoring. These remote controlled and autonomous oceanographic activities are similar to the mission requirements needed for planetary research (and eventual pre-colonization preparations) as we continue to explore our solar system.

For a long time, oceans have provided the setting for many great science fiction stories. Perhaps the first major science fiction story that highlighted the wonder of ocean resources was Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, first published in 1870. Raising public awareness for protecting this resource and exploring new research areas will improve the health of our oceans and crowd source development of new technologies, approaches, and interventions to resolving
current ocean issues. The purpose of the competition
will be to:

  • Reward the innovation that is possible by leveraging off-the-shelf technologies, small teams, and other agile approaches to creating next-generation submersible platforms.
  • Motivate the upcoming generation of explorers to reach for new heights (or new depths) and reveal the unknown, on their own terms.
  • Broaden public participation in deep oceanographic exploration as part of a larger goal to commoditize marine technology and protect marine environments.
  • Bring a consumer model to the business of oceanographic research, which promises to accelerate the pace of marine science.
  • Break the paradigm of large-scale, expensive, government-driven science and exploration by offering successful alternatives in the form of a small-scale, revolutionary submarine demonstration.
  • Infuse creativity and innovation into STEM education at the high school level.
                       The DOER H2000 is a ultra compact work class ROV

                       The DOER H2000 is a ultra compact work class ROV

Student competitors will submit a research design proposal for evaluation by a panel of industry experts and academic practitioners. Submissions to the Deep Ocean Research and Robotics Competition shall consist of a 20-page research proposal based on the Submission Guidelines and a five to seven-minute narrative video.

Submissions will also describe how the submersible robot will be retrieved after completing its mission to be consistent with preserving the undersea environment and eliminate marine debris.

The competition registration and submission period will be open from November 1, 2016 to March 15, 2017. Judging and proposal evaluations will begin on March 15, 2017. Award notification will be made on May 15, 2017. Award recognition will be made at Escape Velocity on Saturday, September 2, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Research Design and Mission Proposal Requirements
The Deep Ocean Research and Robotics Competition proposal (for competition participants) should include the following elements:

  • A “killer graphic:” an image of the proposed submarine robotic platform and any unusual project elements other than the robot, such as communication and video sensory packages. (1 page, 10-30 seconds of video)
  • Description of the research: its objectives, mission-success criteria, and a likely sequence of events with timeline. (2-6 pp, 1-3 minutes of video)
  • Technical detail: explanation of the robot’s technologies and how it will be built and operated sufficient to enable the judges to assess the project’s feasibility. Unknown details should be described as “trade studies” to be completed during the project. (2-6 pp, 1-3 minutes of video)
  • Business case: explain how the proposed submersible robot leverages commercial-submarine principles and/or will demonstrate a business case for a new marine-business enterprise. (1-2 pp, 1 minute of video)
  • Budget and teaming approach: a summary of costs for fabricating the robot (not launching it), and an explanation of the team’s composition, affiliated organizations, any other sources of sponsorship, and organizational approach. (1-2 pp, 1-2 minutes of video)

The research mission proposals will be evaluated by a volunteer panel of commercial marine research, submarine robotic industry experts, and academic practitioners. The research mission proposals will be judged on the following criteria:

  1. Innovation: a central element of the proposed research must be a line of scientific inquiry, a submarine technology, a destination, or a system that demonstrates a marine research-business model that is new to the world.
  2. Commercialization: some central aspect of the deep ocean robot, the research, commercial or commercializable approaches to software and hardware development, or economies of scale.
  3. Technical feasibility: the deep ocean robot may involve some risky technical development as part of its key innovative element(s), but overall the robot must be within the capabilities of current technology.
  4. Budget realism: the cost of all the components, including labor to produce any custom parts, must be shown not to exceed $10,000. Labor for integration, test, and launch of the deep ocean robotic system is not part of this $10,000 budget.

Submission Requirements

  1. Research design proposals must comply with the Submission Requirements, Parental Consent (if applicable), and Official Rules (see below).
  2. Research design proposals may be submitted as a PDF file, not to exceed 20 pages. The file must not be larger than 5 MB and must include a registration number in the file name. Files may be submitted to:
  3. Research design video narratives must include a link/URL to the video (Please do not submit attached video files) and the registration number in the email submission and may be submitted to:

To register, click the Registration Form button

Registration and Submission Deadline
The registration and submission deadline is Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 5 PM EST.
After completing the registration form, a number will be assigned to you and must be included with all submissions.

Awards at Escape Velocity 2017

One prize will be awarded. The winner (or winning team) will have their research proposal funded, built, and launched. Data collected from the marine research will be shared with participating schools and other research organizations for analysis and contribution to the field of study.

Research findings will be published in the Museum’s triannual Journal of Science Fiction.

Winners will be notified by email on or about May 15, 2017.
Awards will be made at Escape Velocity 2017 on Saturday, September 2, 2017.
Please email any questions to:

Questions | Responses | Additional Information

Updates and Additional Information on: Facebook and Twitter

Registration Cost:  Free.

Registration Process:  Complete the registration form to obtain a registration number
anytime before 5pm EST on Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 5 PM EST.

Parental Consent Form: Click to download (if you are under 13 years old).

Press Release: Click to download

Official Rules: Click to download