Mini Darpa Challenge

This mostly applies for people in the NYC area, but I’m sure it will give others ideas. In the recent upswing of people who own VEX kits, and after PBS’s NOVA show on the Grand Challenge I had an idea. It would be really fun to have a mini darpa challenge with vex/miniature robots. In NY, probably in Riverside or Central Park or something, but I’m sure it could happen around the country. No standarized courses, different for each one. I’d be willing to host the one in NY, although I’d want to enter. The course would be setup on that day with rails on either side so you don’t need to rely on gps. It would be much much much smaller, and there would be height and weight restrictions, although they would be loose. However, I need to know how many people would be interested in doing osmething like this, so if you are in the NY area, please respond to this with questions, concerns, or just sure that would be great where do i sign up? For there to a be a prize there wouuld have to be an entrance fee, something like 5 dollars, and winner takes all, or we can donate it to FIRST, or something of that sort. ANyway, please post. I’ll come out with some rules later, if enough people want to do it.

I’d love to be apart of it, but we don’t Vex and getting my team to do Off Season Robotics is almost near impossible.

It wouldn’t have to be VEX parts, I just suggested that because they are a) on sale, I think still, b) easy to get c) easy to work with, and d) come with things that would make this slightly easier. So as long as it didn’t break the weight, height, width, length, requirement, and I’d probably put a price tag on it as well, as well as number of sensors, (although they would all be LOOSE requirements, sI’m thinking like 3 by 3 by 3 feet, (probably bigger) or maybe just 27 cubic feet, price tag of like 1000 dollars and max 20 sensors. Depending on interest in it, and people who actually show up, these rules would tighten/loosen. However, I wouldn’t reject anybody who fit in these guide lines, just because theyre slow or something. I know DARPA had a pre race race to see who would be allowed in.

There is a competition like this called robo-magellan some information is available at If you do decide to start your own competition and It is in the NYC area (or closer to RI) I would be more than happy to help you with planning or would atleast like to compete.

I would be interested, but my team is not in the area.

However, if you guys try this out, I’d love to see how it goes, as I might want to host one outside of SVR, or another local regional that I attend.

The rules would generally be the same, but there are some things I would like to change. Also, there would be another competition for people who don’t have the programming kit. It would be human controlled as a seperate one, so people who don’t have the money can still partake in the festivities. Some rules I would change would be allowing people to measure the course, that woul dbe illegal. Wheel diameter would be restricted a bit, and there would also be limit on number of motors. People could take part in both if they wanted to.

maybe make it really hard and do not limit any hardware, the real hard part will be setting the direction without the GPS but it sounds like a lot of fun

Here is a link to a post I just posted about this topic.

This talks about my Mini DARPA Challenge I am in. :slight_smile:

You said you would not need to rely of GPS, you did not rule it out.

You can get GPS units on ebay with serial outputs for $100. Its a great way to get from A to B if you know where B is, but GPS is not a magic solution. You still need to avoid obsticals and not run into other vehicles.

GPS would only be one subsystem of the navigation design.

A digital compass with tilt compensation and a gyro help when the lock is lost. The lazer stuff is big $$$$$. However ultrasonic and IR sensors are very usable and relatively cheap.

GPS is only accurate toa certain degree, for something this small, i mightactually hurt your performance.

Yup, commerical GPS, as it is now, is probably only accurate to about 10 or 15 feet. In a course that’s in a section of a park or something, I would imagine the error would be too much to be very useful

There was an artricle about Robo Magellan in one of the free Servo magazines we got this year (Or maybe last year) It was about some one who won a competition he used a remote controlled truck kit (Traxxas makes some great ones) as a base then added Ultra sonic sensors for obstical recognition and avoidance as well a digital compass to stay on track. Finally he used a CMU cam to Identify the traffic cone that marked the end point. I dont remember what he used for a controller but all of those sensors could be used with the Vex kit EDU controller or for a little more power a gumstix, any thing with a serial port could be used.

They took the military dither (encryption) off GPS about 8 years ago.

Commercial units with position accuracy down to a couple feet have been available for a long time now.

and if you want better, there is a local / surveyor mode where one GPS acts as a reference point in an area, allowing you to get position accuracy to less than a inch!

Also, if you are outside there is no reason why your GPS would lose satellite lock, unless you go through a tunnel, or into a heavily wooded area.

What kind of terrain would we be dealing with? Rocks, sticks, water, hills what? Make it a size restriction like 20"x20" and an unlimited height, no weight either. Those bumpers you referred to, would there be penalites if you touched them? Thinking behind this would be, a few bump sensors on the 4 corners of your bot would hit the bumper and correct it’s trajectory. Just some ideas.

You are talking about Dave Shinsel and his robot “Seeker.” Read more at I spent a half-hour talking to him at the Seattle Robotics Society Robothon last fall. It was pure FIRST “whatever is cheap” construction. Dave used an off-the-shelf RC chassis with a custom-fabricated body and upgraded springs. For computers, he used a Pick processor (what we use in FIRST) and an old notebook computer onboard. The CMU camera had a lens from a cheap pair of polarized sunglasses taped over it to reduce UV saturation.

Dave was a really friendly guy (typical robonut) and I’m sure would answer any question you wanted to email him.

By the way, second place in the 2005 Robo-Magellan contest was won by Tom and Cathy Saxton, who are mentors for FRC team 1318, the Issaquah Robotics Society.

Rocks, grass, ramps of wood, bumps, asphalt, concrete, maybe some metal parts. The bumpers would just be so you didn’t turn around or anything, so you stay on track. I wouldn’t restrict the number of times you could hit it, just the length of time you could be in contact with it. And, I would do my height weight rules based on people applying.

interesting! otherwise, if you have a guard rail the whole lenght of the course all you need to do is follow the rail to the finish line.

I have talked with a programmer and he thinks that vex may not have the programmable power,

to get to point to point fast you need to have a set electronic point like a way-point. This is very hard with out a gps.

all and all I thing this may be a job for the frc interface it would be easy to use with a gps.

I dont see any reason why other computers or CPU boards would not be allowed onboard the VEX machine? Im sure the vehicles in the DARPA challenge had some pretty serious computers onboard.