Lakeshore News: 'Team Invincible' unbeatable in robotics competition

(Date added: 2008-05-21 17:22:16. Local cache.)


Team "invincible" from U of W took the first place in the Autonomous Racing Challenge 2008.

Grade 11 Belle River District High School student Michael Stolarchuk understands the meaning of blood, sweat and tears now. After many sleepless nights, multiple rebuilds of a robotic car and team innovation, he was part of the team called "Invincible" from the University of Windsor who took the first place in the Autonomous Racing Challenge 2008. The event was held April 26 at the University of Waterloo.

The competition involved racing fully autonomous (self-controlled) vehicles head-to-head on an outdoor track. Three components of the competition were tallied to win which consisted of a drag race competition, a circuit competition around a track and static judging by a team of judges hearing about how the teams designed and crafted their vehicles.

Teams that participated in the competition included two teams from the University of Windsor, three teams from the University of Waterloo, and single entries from the University of Western Ontario, the University of British Columbia, McMaster University, RoboMontreal and a former DARPA Grand Challenger competitor.

Team "Invincible" was comprised of graduate and undergraduate students from the Computer Vision and Sensing Systems Laboratory, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and a high school student.

Team Leader and Designer, Siddhant "Sid" Ahuja said "We gained valuable experience by participating and winning this challenge, and are looking forward to the one next year."

Other member's roles on the team included application programmer Thanh Nguyen and Mechanical Systems Designer Michael Stolarchuk (who was helping the team as a student continuing his volunteering hours at the lab).

Undergraduate supporting members to the team (working on their Capstone Project for Electrical and Computer Engineering) included Saket Sood, Mohammed Bidabadi and Rameez Syed. As part of Dr. Jonathan Wu's Automotive Sensors course (88-554) at the University, the team worked night and day on this project. Funding was attracted from BASF ($1,000.00) and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering ($500.00) and was supported by the Don Tersigni (Electronic Technologist with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering).

With a simple yet sophisicated design involving a single vision system and state-of-the-art algorithms, the robot was able to autonomously navigate itself through the race track. "I was quite proud of all the hard work the team put into the robot and I was glad to see it pay off" commented Don Tersigni.

Second Year Engineering students from the University of Windsor also put a team into the competition called "ISysDT". Members of the team who travelled to Waterloo were Don MacDonald, Tony Choi, Rifat "Disha" Chowdhury and Gagandeep Dulay. Dan MacDonald said "the hardest part of the competition was learning curve and the best part was team work, representing the school and learning new things".

The competition is one of the toughest robotic competitions held in Canada where the robotic machines perform desired tasks in a complex environment without the need for human guidance or control. These robots are finding their way into applications such as space exploration, mining, search and rescue, remote sensing and automotive inspection. Some autonomous robots are even becoming more common around the home for routine tasks such as vacuuming, mowing lawns, parking cars, and in future, driving cars.

"Being part of this team was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. The kind of learning I did, I could never had had sitting in a classroom. We had many struggles with different sensors, and we thought about giving up many times. Then we came up with the idea of the single sensor (or camera) and it all worked out" said Michael Stolarchuk.

The prize money of $500 was split amongst the team.

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