Rookie robot racers dash to first place win
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Working with a 1980s-era radio-controlled car programmed to drive on its own, a team of McMaster engineering students drag raced their way to victory recently at the International Autonomous Robot Racing Challenge held at the University of Windsor.
Emily Bot, Danny Vacar, Dan Kish, Mike Irvine and Bryan House saw their robot creation, appropriately named Dash, place first in the drag race competition and third in the obstacle course circuit race, earning them more than $700 in winnings.
"Given that this was our first year and we presented a unique implementation, I am more than pleased with the results," said House, a master's candidate in electrical and computer engineering.
The competition consisted of three events: a drag race, circuit race and design competition. The drag race began with time trials followed by the top two teams competing head-to-head for first and second place. The circuit race had the robots navigate a pylon obstacle course. The design competition evaluated various aspects of the robot design including: safety, style, original content and serviceability.
Building Dash involved completely overhauling a radio-controlled car body with new suspension, drive train and body. The team also developed its own pylon detection and path-following algorithm and embedded it all on a circuit board which processed images from a camera mounted on the back spoiler.
"No other team there used an embedded system," said Vacar. "The team worked hard and it was great to see so many people from different levels and disciplines come together."
Planning meetings for the competition began last October with development of the robot and implementation started in late February.
"Considering the vehicle was older than most people on our team we did really well," said Kish. "I can't wait to start developing next year's vehicle."
The competition is designed to provide competitors with hands-on design experience that applies classroom theory to a real-world situation using industry-leading technologies. Competitors gain experience in teamwork and an understanding of the importance of working efficiently and innovatively. Team members branch out beyond engineering with roles ranging from business and management, to written communications, graphic arts and public relations.
The team was sponsored by IEEE Student Branch McMaster University, L3 WESCAM, Advanced Circuits and the McMaster Engineering Society.
Anyone interested in being part of next year's team should contact Mike Irvine, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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