The University of Missouri-Rolla Robotics Team is busy preparing for the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition, which will be held June 11-13 in Traverse City, Mich. But the team s robot, perched on a three-wheel-drive vehicle, will do all of the thinking and steering once the competition starts.
You ve got to make the computer almost as smart as someone driving a real car, says Chris Solomon, president of the UMR Robotics Team.
The goal is to navigate the vehicle through an obstacle course as fast as possible, but speeds are fairly slow around 5 mph.
That doesn t mean the course is easy, says Solomon, a senior in aerospace engineering from Rolla. There is no remote control.
The robot must be able to differentiate colors and sizes, among other things. Team members have outfitted the UMR vehicle, which runs on rechargeable batteries, with sonar and infrared sensors, stereo cameras, and a Global Positioning System.
The vehicle has to know where it is, and anticipate its next move, says Solomon.
When the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition starts, the students work will be mostly done. They will be on the sidelines, rooting for their robot and hoping they gave it all of the right knowledge.
The UMR students have had several brainstorming sessions, plotting strategy and trying to figure out if they re forgetting something. When asked what the robot s most important thing to remember is, Solomon says, Try not to catch fire.
In Michigan, the UMR team will be up against schools with big reputations and bigger budgets. With a modest budget for their robotic vehicle, it might seem like the UMR students are a small-market team trying to beat the Yankees. But Solomon doesn t see the funding gap as a big problem.
Our student design teams are always among the best in the nation, he says. In this competition, we have to be leaner and think about every thing that could possibly go wrong. I think that mentality will help us when it comes time to let the vehicle loose on its own.
We feel that we have a very good chance at placing well at this competition. Our robot is definitely one of the more professionally constructed vehicles after looking at robots from previous years.
Faculty advisors to the UMR team are Dr. Daniel McAdams, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Dr. Sanjeev Agarwal, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering.