Report from FIRST Robotics aerial robotics planning meeting


We had a full house of university leaders yesterday at the FIRST Robotics Championship for our planning/brainstorming meeting on a potential indoors aerial robotics competition. We opened with Dean Kamen, the founder of FIRST (and famed inventor of things like the Segway) describing the opportunity for a next level competition for university students (shown above). Like a "NCAA" league to go with the "Little League to High School" model that FIRST now covers (apologies for the American analogies!).


Vince Wilczynski from the Coast Guard Academy, Steve Barker from HiTechnic and I presented some options, and Jordi and I demoed Blimduino and the Parrot AR.Drone.


The general takeaway from the meeting, based on the advice from the university leaders: they love the idea of a FIRST-sponsored aerial robotics competition, but that it has to be really cool to draw sufficient participation from the students. Many of them are engineers and the range of available projects to them in undergraduate and graduate school these days is pretty amazing, from cars to other bots, so the platform we choose has to have a high "wow" factor.


I suspect what that will mean is that we'll steer the college-level competition towards quadcopters (possibly in combination with ground rovers) and push the blimps more towards high school classes and competition. All the more reason to move ahead with our Parrot AR.Drone UAV conversion board...


And look what Jordi and I found in an alley outside the Georgia Dome on the way home:


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Comment by Ron Jacobs on April 16, 2010 at 8:14am
Sounds great.

What the heck is that? A Moon rover?

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Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 16, 2010 at 9:07am
looks ready to add to your tow hook and take to Sparkfun
Comment by passunca on April 16, 2010 at 10:38am
actually is a mars rover now :)
Comment by Jack Crossfire on April 16, 2010 at 11:12am
Aren't you supposed to be excited about basic research & "commercial" crew transport to LEO instead of silly moon programs?

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Comment by Morli on April 16, 2010 at 1:13pm
With 2 Mil a ride , there are lot more things to get excited about for poor souls like me but Yes , basic research and other stuff are better things "to do" than moon glazing
Comment by passunca on April 16, 2010 at 3:36pm
I always thought that the moon base idea was to provide some sort of refuelling station to be used in future Mars missions. That's why Nasa was looking for water in the moon and I think it is easier to send a rocket to Mars from there.
Comment by Garry Qualls on April 17, 2010 at 11:12pm
Any published notes or video from this planning meeting? I would have loved to have been there. I am hiring a few college students to prototype a contest (among other things) this summer. Right now I am thinking about three tiers: simulation only, hardware in the loop simulation, and autonomous hardware. Contestants would graduate from one tier to the next as their skills and budget allow. No idea whether we'll be attempting this with ground vehicles or air vehicles, yet.

By the way, that is the NASA Desert RATS Lunar Electric Rover (LER), formerly known as the Small Pressurized Rover (SPR), in the alley. No official word yet on renaming it for Mars exploration... Here is a web page about it: http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/home/LER.html

And, as long as I am linking, here is a cool diagram of how deep the various gravity wells are throughout the solar system, so you can compare going to Mars from Earth's moon and going there from Earth's surface: http://xkcd.com/681/. Clearly we won't be driving any rovers around on Mars' moons. It's hard to get any traction and once you get moving it's too easy to bounce off!

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