CWRU Cutter and Robocars: The Tale of Giant Robots

Hello, all! Long time, no see. Lots to update on.

Lets start with CWRU Cutter. A team of a few students, led by Dr. Quinn from Case’s Biologically Inspired Center for Robotics Research, entered the ION Autonomous Lawn mowing competition. ION, or the Institute of Navigation, is a professional organization that allows collaboration between the experts of localization and planning. What better to test the integration of GPS and other sensors but an autonomous lawn mowing competition!

The competition, held in early June in Dayton, OH, was comprised of eleven initial teams. There were eight teams to show. After a long couple of weeks of work and a final rush at the end to get everything working (seems to be the case with robot projects), we placed third in the competition. We were also happy to have achieved the best combined technical report and presentation scores out of all teams. We learned a lot from the competition… including that we undersized our DC motors and had a deck that was about one inch too low. Our thrifty Hardware Expert, Jon Beno, hacked some metal on site and got the robot in a moving state. The team (including myself) were thrilled to place for our first year in the competition, and are looking forward to entering the competition again next year.

Our sponsor company, MTD Products, was also pretty happy with our performance and (is hopefully) going to continue supporting our team for the next year. For those of you that don’t know, MTD Products manufactures Cub Cadet, Troy Bilt, Yard Machine, and most Craftsman power equipment. Their product line varies from riding mowers to push mowers to string trimmers to log splitters to snow throwers. I’ve been working with MTD’s Testing department in order to automate the field testing of riding mowers. Eventually, the automation technology will probably move to testing of other products.

Another exciting thing with respect to TeamCASE and our long-over venture to the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge has finally come about. Discovery Science channel, after a long period of post-production of the series, will air Robocars. The six-week series will air starting on July 14th at 10pm. The first four episodes are each one hour and will follow 10 selected teams as they compete in the challenge from start to finish. The fifth episode is a two-hour summary of the first four episodes, and the sixth episode talks about the application of autonomous robotics to the up and coming near future industry.

A little birdie told me that Case will be primarily seen in Episode two, airing first on July 21st at 10pm. However, we will probably be shown in the other episodes from time to time… so keep an eye out!

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