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High School student teams to face the robotic vehicle championship challenges by adding GPS navigation elements to robot

by Rus Abz 2011-04-29 11:54


The Smithsonian and AFRL are sponsoring Global Positioning System capable Robotics championship and providing specially designed facilities for the upcoming in May 2011 the National championship of the Smithsonian and the Institute of Navigation "Mini-Urban Challenge". The AFRL Institute (Institute of Navigation and the Air Force Research Laboratory) helps educate and prepare a new generation of best and brightest of our Nation focusing on the satellite navigation engineering and GPS technology sponsoring the so called "Mini-Urban Challenge" annual event for the last three years. 

robot with GPS radar tracker - 3D render of robot with GPS...

With enthusiasm of their teachers we see more and more young capable people are passionately interested in science and technology including GPS navigation added to guide robotics designs built of Lego kits with flexible computer hardware and software programming capabilities, and are involved in the next potential breakthrough in science, high technologies physics and mathematics. New GPS course navigation antennas and receivers along with gps signal chips and gps processing algorithms being prototyped now in robotic vehicles by young scientists, in the future could help create smart communication helper devices for blind and visually impaired people.

Dozens of High Schools in the United States are actively participating in hard work all year to prepare their robotic GPS navigated designs and even fully operational autonomous vehicles, based off LEGO Mindstorm NXT kits, embedded operating system, processors, memory, software, additional electromechanical elements, optoelectronic and fiber optics components, high capacity lithium ion batteries, LED-s and GPS mounts and building blocks

The challenge is to create a fully functional intelligent robot vehicle sensing light and color, able to "feel by touch" against obstacles, having algorithms to process data coming from multiple different type sensors, from ultra sonic "sonar" sensors to optical vision sensors to GPS receiver antenna and GPS navigation chips. Not to mention the complicated interconnection of motors, gears and solenoids involved to control the robot, and there are rumors of some of them even using a tiny hydraulic gears to assist robot stay at the vehicle' real time adjusted course. 

The high school students do all work from ground up and getting ready for the competition which will take place in Washington, at Smithsonian "LEGO City" arena where the young scientists and engineers will pre-load their hand-held and on-the robot GPS navigators to have the local topo maps of the championship competition area, such that half an hour later their smart robotic LEGO vehicles will hit the course. Each robot will meet great challenges having less than a hour time frame limit as well as has to watch the speed limits as required by the rules around tight intersections. Obviously the Gps-assisted robots may have an advantage over otherwise using just traditional light, feel, sound and sonar array of sensors to calculate the best course in real time, watch up for mandatory stops in pre-assigned parking lots and follow difficult curved path.

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