The final hovercraft competition ended up going well, even though most teams were unable to collect very many balls in the end. Most teams were there the whole night before leading up to the competition debugging code and tweaking hardware. Although more than one team completely revamped their systems that night (despite my strong recommendations not to). Congratulations to all of the teams for their hard work throughout the semester and to Group2 for collecting nearly a dozen balls! Here are a few pictures and videos.
On Friday, December 9, 2011, we will be holding the final competition for CSCE 496/896: Robotics. This will take place at 2:30 on the second floor of the Schorr Center. We will start by having each group of students in the course give a short presentation about the hovercraft they built over the course of the semester and the approach they are taking in the competition. We will then move onto the competition. Each group will have two attempts on the competition course.
For the final competition (inspired by 6.141, but our version is much harder since we hover), the hovercraft have to autonomously find and pick up balls and then drop them off at particular drop off locations. The layout of the environment will not be revealed until the morning of the competition. The environment will contain a number of balls, some at known locations and some at unknown locations. There will be visual landmarks (self-similar bar codes) placed throughout the environment at known locations. There will also be drop off locations specified where the robots will need to drop the balls off. Each robot will be scored on the number of balls they pick up and how many the drop off. Some balls and drop off locations will have a higher point value than others.
There are a number of challenges that the students have been working on over the course of the semester that will come into play in the final competition. Some of the challenges include: 1) controlling the hovercraft (a robot without wheels); 2) avoiding obstacles (did I mention that there may be some unknown obstacles in the environment?!); 3) detecting the landmarks using an onboard camera (on a gumstix); 4) detecting the balls; 5) global localization based on the landmarks and balls (dead reckoning is nearly impossible on a hovercraft since it drifts significantly); 6) planning paths in the environment; 7) picking up balls; and 8 ) getting all of this to work at the same time.
Each group designed and built their own mechanisms to pick up the balls, with every group choosing a very different approach. Below are some pictures and short videos of some of the approaches. I will certainly post videos and results after the competition!