Tech autonomous robot
places 1st for design
As a first time challenger in the
International Unmanned Ground Robotics Competition last July, Virginia
Tech's autonomous robot team placed first in the design contest, but
along with the other contestants, did not finish the as-yet-unconquered
The four-year-old competition is sponsored by the Association for Unmanned
Vehicle Systems and the Society of Automotive Engineers, and challenges
vehicles to autonomously navigate around a 450-foot winding outdoor obstacle
course. The July competition required vehicles to track yellow and white
lane markings, including solid white lane lines painted on grass that changed
to dashed lines. Some of the obstacles were a 14-inch ramp and a sand trap.
The technical challenges each team encounters involve developing and
integrating computer vision and sensor systems with control, power, electrical
and mechanical systems.
The Tech student team prepared two robots for the competition - CALVIN,
using a golf cart chassis, and BOB, based on a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle.
The robots faced 17 other robots from 13 universities at Disney's Epcot
Center in Orlando Florida.
CALVIN won first place in the design contest, and placed 12th in the
obstacle course, while BOB placed third and sixth respectively.
In four years of competitions, no vehicle has yet completed the entire
course. Hoping to be the first team to succeed, Tech students are reconstructing
the two robots and building a third, IVAN, to enter the fifth competition
The team has been assisted by a number of sponsors, including Allied
Signal Inc., Altira, Inc., EZ-GO Golf Carts, Framatome Technologies, Goodyear,
Kollmorgen, Michelin North America, Motionex, Motion Systems Corp., Reynolds
Aluminum, Tripp Lite and Fore Technologies.
Currently 28 electrical, computer and mechanical engineering students
comprise the team. EE and CpE team members include Jeff Barton (EE, '97),
Steven Bathiche (EE, '97), Richard Gibbs (CpE, '97), Matthew Grey (EE, '99),
D.J. Hatfield (EE, '96), Tommy Housman (EE, '97), Paul Johnson (G), Timothy
Judkins (CpE, '00), Jeff Kolm (EE, '97), Christos Kontogeorgakis (G), James
Mentz (EE, '97), Pranas Paulinkonis (CpE, '97), James Ryan (EE, '97), and
Jason Thweatt (EE, '97).
Faculty advisors include Charles
Reinholtz (ME), Lynn
Abbott (CpE), John
Bay (EE), John Roach (CS), and Will