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2020 Competition Cancellation and Recap of Year

Monday, May 11, 2020
This year's competition was canceled due to Covid-19, but it was still a great year of robotics!

This year, the team chose to compete at the National Robotics Challenge (NRC). The National Robotics challenge is a yearly competition which comprises many different events. A full list of events and rules can be found in the competition manual here. The team chose to compete in the Combat Robot and Autonomous Vehicle Challenge (AVC) events.

The purpose of this competition is to construct a 14" x 14" x 14" 3lb beetleweight robot. Two robots fight head-to-head in an enclosed 8’x8’ arena until one of the bots becomes immobilized.

The robot we designed for this was a full-body spinning robot. It is circular and the entire robot is designed to spin at approximately 400rpm. The primary weapon is a tooth sticking out of the side to hit the other robots.

More information on this bot can be found on its project page.

The goal of this competition is to design and build a vehicle to autonomously navigate around a course. The course begins at a starting line, loops around four waypoints, and ends at the same location. Points are awarded based on speed of completing the course. Along the course are a hoop and ramp. Driving through the hoop or over the ramp will give bonus points. The course layout is shown below.

For the car body, the team decided to reuse an old Traxxas E-Revo Brushless Edition RC car from a previous competition. This chassis is capable of very high speeds and has good handling. The chassis was a bit beat up from previous use, so the team replaced damaged components with stronger aluminum ones. Also, in the process of interfacing our control system with the stock one, there was an unfortunate accident where the ESC met its demise. We replaced this with a newer stronger version as well.

For the control system, the plan was to use a combination of computer vision, GPS, and IMU positioning. The core of the system was a Nvidia Jetson Nano running ROS. We chose this device since it has plenty of firepower for computer vision object detection and coordinating all of the inputs to establish location on the course. The Jetson interfaced with an Arduino Nano 33 BLE which communicated with the sensors, steering servos, and drive motor speed controller. Before our progress was halted, we were able to detect the waypoints using computer vision and establish location using GPS. We were also able to interface the RC car’s control system with the Arduino and successfully drove the car autonomously some short distances.

Status and Plans for Next Year
Unfortunately, progress was halted mid-spring semester due to Covid-19. At that time, we would have been somewhat rushed to complete both challenges by the time of the competition, but we are confident we would have gotten it done.

Fortunately, the challenges will be the same next year. As of now, our plan is to compete in the NRC competition once again so we will have the opportunity to finish these bots and compete with them. Since we will have a full year to work on this, we anticipate being able to greatly refine our designs and hopefully have an even stronger showing at the competition. We look forward to next year starting so that we can pick up where we left off.