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UWindsor Daily News: Engineering students roll to victory in robot race

(Originally published in "UWindsor Daily News: Engineering students roll to victory in robot race", Date Added: 2008-05-05)

Summary: 

A robot designed and built by UWindsor engineering students took top honours at the national Autonomous Racing Challenge in Waterloo, April 26, 2008.

Date Added: 2008-05-05 20:28:09

Team Invincible proved as good as its name. A robot designed and built by UWindsor engineering students took top honours at the national Autonomous Racing Challenge in Waterloo, April 26.

The competition pitted vehicles in head-to-head races on an outdoor track without human guidance or control, and included a drag race, a circuit course, and static judging.

The path to victory was not smooth, said project leader Siddhant Ahuja, a master's student in electrical and computer engineering. The team encountered a number of mechanical failures during a month of design and testing-short circuits, overloaded motors, power drains. It researched and rejected a number of sensor systems-ultrasonic, infrared, inertial measurement, global positioning system-before settling on a "simple yet sophisticated" design using a single vision system, a camera.

That decision almost proved disastrous. When the team arrived in Waterloo, competitors took photos of their entry, and one laser projection system damaged the camera. Despite feverish attempts to find a replacement, Invincible had to soldier on with fewer pixels to analyze.

Then practice runs revealed another hurdle, this time in the software algorithms.

"We found that the robot kept going towards a group of students from a local school," Ahuja said. "It took us a while to figure out that they were wearing red T-shirts, which the robot confused with the orange pylons used to mark the course. We had to ask them to stand behind the robot."

In the end, though, the robot overcame these challenges. It was the only one to complete the drag race by going straight, twice out of three tries, without hitting any pylons, and its 14 second completion time placed it second. Invincible also took second in the static design competition.

In the circuit race, the visual sensors proved their worth-the robot set a record time in navigating the course and took first prize by completing four laps. In the end, the robot took top honours overall.

Ahuja credits the members of his team for the win. As project leader, he researched and tested sensor systems, designed the electrical system and wrote software to control the robot. Thanh Nguyen, a doctoral candidate in electrical and computer engineering, wrote a state-of-the-art vision processing algorithm for the camera sensor-the robot's eyes. And Michael Stolarchuk, a student volunteer from Belle River District High School, did much of the actual construction, wiring and power management.

The whole team said they appreciated the support of technologist Don Tersigni and professor Jonathan Wu, as well as sponsors BASF and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, which contributed $1000 and $500 respectively to offset expenses.

Team Invincible was one of two UWindsor entrants in the competition. The second team, University of Windsor iSysDT, included students from mechanical engineering as well as electrical and computer engineering.

Group photo of winning team

Winning combination: Standing (left to right): Daniel McDonald of team iSysDT, capstone design team member Saket Sood, Gagandeep Singh Dulay of team iSysDT, sponsor Dean Clevett of BASF, capstone design team member Mohammad Bidabadi, academic advisor Jonathan Wu, departmental technologist Don Tersigni. Kneeling: Team Invincible members Thanh Nguyen, Siddhant Ahuja and Michael Stolarchuk. Missing from photo: Team iSysDT members Ramsin Audysho, Hyung-Kyu Choi, and Rifat Chowdhury; capstone design team member Rameez Syed.

 

Competitor robots

 UWindsor entrants Invincible (foreground) and iSysDT competed in a robot race April 26 in Waterloo. Invincible set a course record en route to victory.