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February 1997



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 course.

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 in May.

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 Saunders (ME).



The Bradley Department of Electrical Engineering
Virginia Tech

Last Updated, May 5, 1997
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