Full AVC Details and Course Preview!

Gear up for the biggest AVC yet!

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Wow, what a difference a few years make. When we first started the SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition (or AVC) back in 2009, it took place in our parking lot and a few dozen people showed up. It was an awesome day, but was definitely a low-key affair. Fast forward to today, and we are in the midst of planning what will undoubtedly be the biggest, best AVC yet. So big, in fact, we had to move it from SparkFun headquarters to a new location - the Boulder Reservoir on the outskirts of sunny Boulder, Colo.

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Today we are excited to announce that registration is now open and there are a BUNCH of new rules, regulations, and classes. We think these new rules will make for the most competitive and exciting AVC to date. The scoring system is even different! We've created an AVC page for all things related to the competition, so head over there to check out what the deal is and to register as a competitor or spectator!

Here are the new classes:

  • Student Class - Any robot that is 80% designed and built by students (high school or younger)
  • Micro/PBR - Less than $350 total spent, or small enough to fit into box that's 10"x6"x4"
  • Doping Class - Bring the biggest, baddest and most expensive vehicle you can make ($1k+ or 25lbs+)
  • Non-Traditional Locomotion - Have a walker? A modified autonomous self-balancing pogostick, motorized hamster ball? This designation is for you.
  • Peloton - All remaining vehicles that don't fit into any other class

We've learned a lot from previous years and have decided to make the course easier to navigate. For ground, we've repainted all the barriers, obstacles, and checkpoints to be different primary colors. And if you head over to the AVC site we've got the full dimensions and even paint colors we used. Additionally, we have a full dimensional drawing of the course in addition to GPS waypoints and tracks.

The scoring is also completely different this year and isn't based on the single best time. The new scoring is based on a point system which you can check out here. Be sure to read the full rules before signing up - we don't want you to encounter any surprises at the last minute.

Today, we also have a course preview video. We took a trip out to the reservoir to scope out the location and map out the courses - you can see some details of the course here:



Vimeo version can be found here

We've also drawn up some course maps to give you a better idea of what you're up against. Also be sure to check out the GPS information available on the AVC site.

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Aerial Course

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Ground Course

The event is going to take place from 8:30 a.m. (8 a.m. for competitors) to 5 p.m. (or whenever we finish!) on June 8th, 2013 at the Boulder Reservoir.

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If you've read everything on the site and still have a question, you can email us at avc@sparkfun.com. Sign up your team today - we hope to see you there!

Comments 88 comments

  • Paddypaddy / about 11 years ago / 4

    Ok, sorry I cant come myself. Please reserve a 40x2 meter landing area for my Drone will arrive around 3:23 pm to bring my AVC, expecting to arrive from direction NNE. Please insert any rewards/prices behind the Drone door marked "X34.3".

  • This is glorious! Love the new categories and scoring system, and setting the air course over water really adds a nice "do or die" touch. Can't wait!

    • chartle / about 11 years ago / 1

      "adds a nice “do or die” touch." also probably makes the insurance company happy.

  • JerryH / about 11 years ago / 3

    ...so, what does PBR mean? I keep coming back to Pabst Blue Ribbon.

    • JerryH / about 11 years ago / 1

      Seriously, I don't know what PBR stands for. Does anyone?

  • Ichbinjoe / about 11 years ago / 3

    I think for years to come, the official announcement of AVC day should be on PI day.

  • chartle / about 11 years ago * / 3

    Is Sparkfun providing a recovery boat?

  • Member #302270 / about 11 years ago / 3

    Sparkfuπ ??

  • chartle / about 11 years ago / 2

    OK have to ask, are the barrels weighted?

    • one may be randomly weighted. ;-)

      • chartle / about 11 years ago * / 2

        What kind of remote sensor do you have to measure mass? :-)

        • F=ma. bump into it, and determine how quickly you decelerate. :-)

          • chartle / about 11 years ago / 1

            I was thinking some sort of sonic pinger. Throw something at it and listen to the sound it makes.

            Do you have the acoustic properties of the barrels in the course specs?

        • Unfortunately cheap, effective graviton sensors aren't yet available. Maybe by AVC 2093, though.

          • MikeGrusin / about 11 years ago / 3

            One of our 3-axis accelerometers could do it right now. If we filled the barrel with neutron star material or put a black hole in it. (Jesse!)

            • psh. step 1, aim for barrel. step 2, approach 50mph (or so). step 3, ram barrel head on. step 4, do you still have an intact vehicle? if so, it was probably empty.

              and there's 4 barrels, so, rinse, repeat.

  • Member #106910 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Didn't see it, but is there a deadline to signup, or would you accept a competitor up to the day of the event?

    • I don't think we are going to have the option to accept payment for competitor registration the day of. Also, we will need to organize the heats and such before hand, so my guess would be that the registration will close before competition day. I'd recommend emailing avc@sparkfun.com to double check however.

  • Member #4431 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Too bad the aerial is over water. We have a brand new quad we were going to enter but it would be irresponsible to risk loosing it in the water.

  • machadolab / about 11 years ago / 1

    Is there different prize pools for airplane vs (multi)rotor? Any other difference for the two types of vehicles?

    Or are all "flying things" treated as one single group of vehicles?

    FPV racing anyone??

  • JerryH / about 11 years ago / 1

    There's a discrepancy in the width of the ramp. The video says it is 4.5 feet (53 inches) and the 'obstacle breakdown' says it is 45 inches. Not a huge difference, but you should let us know which is the correct width. How long is the ramp?

  • after my craft augers into the lake, the reservoir is still open for wakeboarding right?

  • MoriFi / about 11 years ago / 1

    You need a boat/BO-AT/aquatic vehicle class, that would be cool.

  • AlJaMa / about 11 years ago / 1

    Hey, are multirotors and helicopters allowed this year?

  • JakeR / about 11 years ago / 1

    Looks like it is going to be awesome!

    Any thoughts of taking the AVC on the road? You might be able to partner with local organizations to make things work. I would love to do this someday for a senior design project or just for fun, but the distance from West Michigan is quite prohibitive.

    • it's an insane amount of work, permits, and coordination. taking it to multiple venues would be nearly impossible with the number of people we currently have involved in the project.

  • urjaman / about 11 years ago / 1

    FYI "Peloton" means "fearless" in finnish. I was very confused for a long time until I consulted wikipedia. (Really means the main pack of cyclists.)

    • Ted M / about 11 years ago / 1

      Yeah, they kind of went with a cycling theme here: Doping == Lance Armstrong, Peloton == the pack (everything else).

  • Whiskey / about 11 years ago / 1

    I think you should get extra points if your air vehicle can land on the water, and drive out to stop in the landing zone. And for next year maybe add a payload pick up point.

  • R0B0T1CS / about 11 years ago / 1


  • Hey guys isnt there going to be a >Free Day this year..?

  • hodginsa / about 11 years ago / 1

    Signed up, ready to rock! I hope our vehicle is finished in time!

  • Am I the only one concerned about the ramp having a slope of ~8.4 deg? (Wheelchair ramp code is ~4.8 deg) My poor little robot won't have enough power beyond a crawl.

    • Kamiquasi / about 11 years ago / 1

      You could always try approaching it at speed, let the momentum be the bulk of what carries it over :)

      Though you say 'little robot', so perhaps the ramp dismount itself would be a challenge anyway?

    • You should probably avoid the ramp. It's far enough outside of the normal course that if you are already accidentally on track to hit it, you will still need to veer left again to get back on course.

  • jakkjakk / about 11 years ago / 1

    surprised they allow you to fly over the water. With all potential of RC's falling into the water and polluting the water with oil and gas of some kind.

    • We will have our best and brightest out on the water scooping up downed crafts. He practically lives in his row boat, so this will be right up his alley.

  • SlyVixsky / about 11 years ago / 1

    ok, going way out on a limb here. no laptops or other devices, but should one so desire could a (preferably cheap end) smartphone be used as the vehicle controller? they do support software development and hardware control, have built in gps, etc. just put it in airplane mode (no pun intended) to prevent them from receiving calls to control it?

    • re-read the rules. it's covered. a phone doesn't require a base-station to work, so you could use a phone as your 'brains'. as long as it's only using GPS and such, that's fine.

  • rbthursby / about 11 years ago / 1

    What rules govern the "less than $350" determination? If someone scores an originally $500.00 electric RC car for $0.50 on eBay, is the value of the part $0.50 or $500.00?

    • of course this is a possibility. if you bring a $500 chassis, you have a $500 robot. we're not ranking people on their frugality, but the technical level (and cost) of the vehicle. Does that make sense? If your buddy works for a company that makes a $10k sensor and gives it to you for free, you won't be competing in the budget class, you will be competing in the doping class, because that best defines your vehicle.

  • FRHN / about 11 years ago / 1

    Will a tender boat or jet-ski be provided for retrieving aircraft?

  • Member #110404 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Is there a limit on how many registrations you are allowing? I'm not sure our bot will be ready in time, but I'd rather risk $30 than miss out if the race fills up.

    • There are unlimited entries this year, but registration closes 1 month before the event. if we get an overwhelming amount of entries, we might be forced to close it earlier, but at this point we don't foresee having to do that.

  • erebus / about 11 years ago / 1

    What about a bonus for starting autonomously? As in you (person starting the race/timer) says go, magic happens and the vehicle starts based on your cue (no builder intervention), and you (the creator) collect fame and glory with out actually doing anything but placing it on the line and turning the power on?

    • good idea, but not this year. there are too many variables to consider. and people would be asking for voice recordings of me saying 'go', or how loud the starter pistol is, etc. ideally, we'd like to give each entrant a 'module' that would trigger them to start, so we could guarantee each one starts at the same time, but that could be problematic.

      • SlyVixsky / about 11 years ago / 1

        not entirely. using zigbee modules (no wireless permitting of course) build 5 modules with battery pack set to receive, and have one hand held set to transmit on a single i/0 line. each vehicle must have an i/o line broken out for this purpose, held high. when the remote modules are called by the host, the i/o line is pulled low. remove tape and pigtail wire, place on next vehicle and run :)

        • yeah, but each one would need to be on a different channel, and there could be interference, etc.

          there are still a LOT of variables here to take into consideration. trust me, I've thought about it, and there's not a fool-proof way to do it perfectly and reliably.

          • erebus / about 11 years ago / 1

            Couldn't you do a single tone (say frequency of 500Hz) that plays for 3 seconds. Then its up to the person entering to have to listen for that frequency. Or perhaps an IR source that flashes at a specific rate (say 1Hz until the start, then 10Hz for go. or just on for wait, off for go). Then the vehicle would just have to have a sensor aligned with your source as part of the vehicle. Could it be optional just like automated landing would be? I do agree, it would be a huge pain, but it would still be pretty slick to see someone who simply places something on the line and then picks it up after its completed it circuit!

  • Member #13003 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Rules questions

    Can I have an onboard Cell modem that gets ntrip corrections? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Networked_Transport_of_RTCM_via_Internet_Protocol

    Based on my reading of the rules a local GPS correction broadcast (aka RTK base station)is not ok(Just confirming)

    On final approach to landing and the fly under hoop can I assume there will be no people under the flight path, IE a laser altimiter will read the ground and not the variation in people etc...


    • I emailed you more robust answers, but no base stations at all, unless it's something that already exists and is accessible by anyone.

      there will be no spectators allowed on the flying portion of the aerial course, so you will be looking at bare ground.

  • andy4us / about 11 years ago / 1

    Is it me, or is there nowhere where the direction around the course is indicated, clockwise, or anti-clockwise. I'm guessing anti-clockwise, but there are no indicators showing that !

  • INET_Crunch / about 11 years ago / 1

    If my vehicle is large enough do all of my wheels have to be on the ramp? Can one side of it go up on the ramp and still get full points?

    • you can't just clip or touch the ramp, you have to fully go on the ramp. so, all 4 wheels or whatever, and hopefully catch some sweet air.

      • Ted M / about 11 years ago / 1

        Robert, thanks for answering all these rules questions.

        I have a few more; last year it was virtually impossible to shortcut the course -- the building kinda got in the way. This year, a rover could go inside a waypoints. What if it went around the first waypoint, inside the second waypoint (miss!?!), through the hoop, around the third waypoint, misses the ramp, around the fourth waypoint and over the finish line in 100 seconds. How many points for this run?

        Also, is a rover DQ'd for wandering inside the inner fence or outside the outer fence (even if it makes all the waypoints)?

        Thanks, this will help me know how to tune my rover!

        • There may or may not be a barrier on the inner part of the course. According to your example (assuming you could go on the inside of the course), you would 25+25+25+50. So, 125 points. You would get no time points, because those are based on a successful run, which this was not. You would only get bonus points. So, someone who completed the course without the hoop in 4.5 minutes would have more points.

          A ground vehicle cannot be DQd for going in or outside of the course. The only 'limits' you have are time. if you want to just drive straight and keep going until you hit the mountains, go for it. we'll just add up whatever points you got after 5 minutes.

  • andy4us / about 11 years ago / 1

    In the description it says

    "Micro/PBR – Less than $350 total spent, OR small enough to fit into box that’s 10"x6"x4"

    the video says

    "Micro/PBR – Less than $350 total spent, AND small enough to fit into box that’s 10"x6"x4"

  • ElegantElectrons / about 11 years ago / 1

    Someone needs to create a dog riding robot that steers by launching dog biscuits (or hanging one on a servo pole). Doesn't appear to be against the rules and it would be awesome.

    • nope. I was actually going to train my wife's mice to complete the course with a mechanized hamster ball. But, I can't enter :-(

  • Member #302270 / about 11 years ago / 1

    Sparkfuπ Why?

  • GreenLite / about 11 years ago / 1

    So the runway will be dirt? Any idea how long it is?

    • about 275 feet long total. it's gravel. check out the GPS zip file for gps waypoints and a track around the landing/take-off zone.

      • GreenLite / about 11 years ago / 1

        Will we be able to go to the site before the competition for test flights? I want to make sure the wheels can handle the gravel and can get up to speed in that short of distance.

        • Yes, the reservoir is open to the public (but you gotta pay to enter) year round. And keep in mind that the take-off strip is nearly twice is long as it was at our building. It should be significantly easier.

          Also, in the summer months, the ground will be dry and hard and will can sweep or smooth the ground as best we can to make it less rough for take-off. But ultimately, it's advised to prepare for rough terrian when taking off.

  • JohnK-EvilMinion / about 11 years ago / 1

    12 GA Shotgun to enforce the no-fly zone? :-)

    • I was just saying how we needed a gatling air-soft gun to keep the planes under control.

      • MoriFi / about 11 years ago / 1

        Ask and it can be found... if you have 4.5k to blow. Yike! That's expensive. http://www.evike.com/product_info.php?cPath=21_591&products_id=28664

  • jleichty / about 11 years ago / 1

    If a ground vehicle in a non-"Doping Class" category outperforms "Doping Class" vehicles, are they eligible for those prizes as well?

  • ME heat o nator / about 11 years ago / 1

    Was the passing fire truck behind the Sparkfun obstacle barrels an ominous foreshadowing of things to come, or happenstance? Either way, I like it.

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