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!).
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: