AIMing for Automated Vehicles

Paul F. Grayson, AIMing for Automated Vehicles blog, Control Engineering

The U.S. armed forces have had smart weapons for a long time now. It is just recently that they realized they need smart supply trucks. Hi, I am Paul F. Grayson, Team Leader of American Industrial Magic (AIM), one of last remaining teams of the 390 teams that worked on vehicles for the DARPA Grand Challenge series of unmanned vehicle races. AIM is working to save soldiers lives by searching for ways to make driverless Army supply trucks affordable. AIM is funded by donations from individuals like you who want to speed up the fielding of this life-saving technology. With this blog, you can look over my shoulder while I and my team work on  this important technology. You will get a chance to look into the world of unmanned robotic vehicles, see some of the things that I see, and puzzle over the challenges of making vehicles driverless. Welcome to my world!



FIRST Robotics Team 3767: One day in week 4 of the build session

FIRST Robotics Completion teams all across the USA (including FIRST Robotics Team 3767, which I am mentoring) are at week 4; 2 weeks are left of the FIRST Robotics Competition build session. Here’s what we built and how we did today in robotics class and after school.

February 09, 2011

It is crunch time for FIRST Robotics Team 3767 with 2 weeks to go in the build session. Photo by Paul F. GraysonFIRST Robotics Completion teams all across the USA (including FIRST Robotics Team 3767, which I am mentoring) are at week 4.  Only two weeks are left of the FIRST Robotics Competition build session. The team has changed gears, and I have been asked to be there for the work sessions after school, which will be every day now.  All across Michigan robots will need to be bagged, sealed, signed, and signature witnessed, on or before 5 p.m. on Feb. 22, 2011.

    The question now is how many robots will be in FIRST Robotics Team 3767’s bag.  Will it contain the main competition robot?  Will it contain also a mini-bot to try for the extra 30 points a team can get by deploying a robot smaller than a cubit foot to climb a pole?  Will the team produce a second or plan B mini-bot to bag also?  With 40 team members and 10 adult mentors anything can happen.  Being a rookie team, will the kids drop the ball or will they rise to the occasion?

     The link has a video about FIRST Robotics that has some great robot action in it.  One update worth mentioning, FIRST has grown so rapidly that this year there is $14.5 million dollars in scholarships available as prizes rather than the $9 million mentioned in the video.

     WORK LOG 2-8-2011  9:07 – 10:41 MR. WILSON'S ROBOTICS CLASS

I promised you an inside look at how a team works, and this is one day.  My day starts at 8 a.m. when I leave the house to pick up one of the other mentors, Doug Burwell, at 8:30 a.m. outside of Burger King (a team sponsor) with his coffee, bike, and backpack.  We arrive at West Senior High School at 9 a.m. and meet Mr. Wilson as his programming class in the library is ending.  He briefs us on what he wants to cover in the Robotics Class as we move through the crowded hallway to the Robotics Classroom B101.  The classes start and stop at odd hours so Robotics runs from 9:07 to 10:41.

     Today in class, only half the people taking the class for credit showed up.

     Of those that were in class today only half of those were working on robotics, designing mini-bot “A” in one corner of the classroom.  The others were doing homework from other classes instead of working on the robot project.   For several weeks everyone has been there working well together and important getting stuff done.  What has happened? Just a few days before they had all been talking about how they wanted to add IBM Watson-like artificial intelligence to their robot.

     As a mentor, I see my job is: #1 to be there, #2 to be a talking reference resource source.  Kids can ask me questions, #3 challenge them to move ahead with their design.  But if they think that doing homework from a different class is the best use of me as a resource, it is their decision.  They did not bring the main robot or the tools from the store room, which seems odd.

     After class Doug left on his bike and I went to the store room to fill out a grant application for the trip to the completion at Troy, MI, April 1 and 2, 2011.  On the way out I passed out 300 Robotics Team buttons in the school cafeteria then drove downtown to the 4-H office to turn in the grant request.

     From there I went to the local cable access channel TV studio where I have TV Producer privileges and borrowed a production TV camera and heavy tripod for a photo shoot I had planned for the evening robot building session.  A video or DVD is one of the 28 ways that teams can gain points.

FIRST Robotics Team 3767 makes buttons to hand out in the West Senior High School cafeteria. Photo by Paul F. Grayson     On the way back, I picked Doug up again for the 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. build session.

     Some work was accomplished on a bumper, one with a flipped cover, so now the team number is upside down on the robot.

     A mother with two kids thinking of joining the 4-H Robotics Club and the FIRST Robotics Team 3767 stopped by for a tour.  At 5 p.m., I gave away the door prize (a coupon for a Burger King Whopper) to one of the team members (you must be present to win), then we moved everything back to the store room.  Doug's homework is to build a mini-bot to demonstrate what can be accomplished overnight.  I stopped by the TV studio on my way home to pick up a different microphone.

     Each day is a different challenge.  I am learning a lot.

     ARE YOU INVOLVED in FIRST Robotics? Leave a comment here!

     Want to leave a comment about this post but cannot see a comment area below? Click on this link: FIRST Robotics Team 3767: One day in week 4 of the build session and scroll down.

     Read other posts about this FIRST Robotics team in the AIMing for Automated Vehicles blog.

     GO ROBOTS !

Paul F. Grayson, AIMing for Automated Vehicles blogPaul F. Grayson - 4-H Leader, 4-H Robotics Club of Traverse City

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