AVC Recap


Well the 2010 SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition has come and gone and - whew! - what a ride! Despite a little bit of rain, it was an amazing day full of some awesome competition, amazing vehicles, and an enthusiastic crowd.


Set-up started bright and early.

The day started off at about 7 AM for the SparkFun crew, as we started arriving to get the area ready to go. Last year, the event was much smaller, with only 8 teams and around 100 spectators. This year, the stakes were raised - we ended up with 18 teams competing and hundreds of spectators. There were bleachers and food vendors and even live music!


Miles Per Gallon - the SparkFun employee band.

The sky was cloudy and looked like rain, but the weather seemed to be holding steady as a bevy of competitors descended on SparkFun headquarters. Teams came from as far as Florida, British Columbia, and New York and as close as Boulder. However, as the first heat began, it seemed like we might have a repeat of last year, as team after team failed to complete more than 25% of the course. Suddenly, a leader broke through - Team Tobor blazed through the course in a scorching 1 minute 55 seconds! Tobor wasn't the only bot to finish the course in the first heat, as Autocrusher also made it through the course in 4 minutes and 22 seconds.


Eventual ground winner, Team Tobor.

As far as the UAV's went, it was an impressive showing to say the least. In the first heat, University of Arizona Robotics, DIY Drones, and Robota (in that order: 1, 2, 3) all finished the course with ease. The University of Arizona robotics team nailed an amazing autonomous landing, coming to rest right on top of the finish line.


Aerial champion, Team Robota.

During the second heat, the competition got more fierce. Team Tobor and Autocrusher had both completed the course, so some speed modifications were in order. The other competitors were hard at work in the Team Pits trying to get their vehicles coded to finish. Ultimately, only one additional ground competitor would finish the course in the 2nd heat, as Team Bon Scott finished in a solid time of 3 minutes and 12 seconds. Autocrusher improved its time to 3 minutes and 27 seconds. Trying to improve his time, Team Tobor quickly found the curb and did not finish the course. Nate Seidle's bot, Team Autobahn, made it to the third turn but then found a curb even his driver, Elmo, couldn't navigate. In the nearest disaster of the day, Team B.O.B. (Bouncing Off Bumpers) started and then suddenly started smoking. Fortunately, the kill switch was at hand and the robot was disarmed before having to be renamed B.I.F. (Bursting Into Flames).


The thrill of victory.

The aerial vehicles were now ready for their second heat and DIY Drones started it off with an impressive time of 37 seconds. However, the University of Arizona Robotics Team scorched the course for a 5 second time (35 seconds around, 30 second deduction for an accurate autonomous landing). Additionally, Death by Pine Tree finished the course, as did Robota.


The agony of defeat.

In the third heat, there was nothing held back. Each competitor turned their vehicles speed to the max, and crossed their fingers. While amusing, speed kills - and only two ground vehicles finished the course. Autocrusher, the only ground vehicle to finish all three heats, completed the course but did not improve its time. Also, Team Autobahn finished the course in a nice time of 3 minutes and 14 seconds!

The final UAV heat would shake of the standings. The University of Arizona again finished, but did not improve their time. DIY Drones elected not to fly through the now cutting rain. Death by Pinetree, with the help of a 15 second deduction for an attempted autonomous landing, leapfrogged Univ. of Ariz. with a time of 3 seconds. However, Robota finished with an amazing run, putting up a post-deduction time of -4 seconds!


A competitor goes airborne at the AVC!

The final standings were as follows -

Aerial Category:

  1. Robota, -4 seconds
  2. Death by Pinetree, 3 seconds
  3. UofA Robotics, 5 seconds
  4. DIY Drones, 37 seconds
  5. Donuts, Coffee, Muffins, 30% complete

Ground Category:

  1. Team Tobor, 1 minute 55 seconds
  2. Bon Scott, 3 minutes 12 seconds
  3. Autobahn, 3 minutes 14 seconds
  4. Autocrusher, 3 minutes 27 seconds
  5. BlueBot, 50% complete
  6. Buzzbut, 30% complete
  7. Project 240, 25% complete
  8. Geeknight Avenger, 25% complete
  9. Jaunty Python, 25% complete
  10. Sharcbot, 22% complete
  11. Tinkerbell, 20% complete
  12. B.O.B., 10% complete
  13. Diminished Expectations, 3% complete

There were also awards given in the following categories:

Engineer's Choice Award: University of Arizona Robotics

Kill Switch Award: B.O.B.

Rookie Award: BlueBot

Best Dressed: SharcBot


The final event - a mass start (and mass chaos).

All in all, it was a simply amazing day. In addition to the great spirit of competition and the awesome vehicles, it was a great time to meet with some of our fantastic customers. We hope everyone had a wonderful time and we are looking forward to next year already! If you want to see more pictures, check out the SparkFun Flickr (and feel free to add your own). There will be video coming shortly. Hope to see you next year! Cheers!


Comments 33 comments

  • Yeah I think something like an easystar or a UAV loitering in a high orbit around the building would make for some good footage of the vehicles as they race around the building. Just set up an ardupilot with a fixed loiter point of a given radius and put a pan-tilt-zoom camera on the bottom with a feed back to the ground.

    • I like this idea a lot but the biggest problem is the video feed back to the ground.
      This year for cameras we tried out several models and eventually settled on the TrendNet TV-IP410 Pan/Tilt camera. It had the range of motion we wanted with some very stable monitoring software that can manage 32 units at once (and worked quite well for our five). The only thing the model didn’t have, that we really wanted, was wireless connectivity.
      We searched for decent wireless cameras and came up short. There were some stationary wireless cams that looked like they had potential but our emphasis was definitely on range of motion.
      If we were to have a non-competing UAV streaming a bird’s eye view next year, a decent on-board wireless card is a must where range of motion may not be that critical. Suggestions are welcome for good webcam models that can be adapted to operate on a UAV and reliably transmit their stream wirelessly.

      • Wait… This is SparkFun! I’m pretty sure we can design our own here in the forums and even sell it so everyone else can get one for their UAV projects. I spent several days looking for one on ebay and amazon, light, long range, high quality video, no such thing!

        • Agreed, if anything’s gonna fit the bill, it’s gonna require some minimal hacking. The idea is to get as close as possible with a light form factor, though, as adding all those hacked bits to make wireless transmission or onboard power work are going to add some weight and drag.

    • Now THAT’s a great idea!

  • Thank you Sparkfun for the wonderful experience, no one else could pull off an event like this one. I was impressed with the energy of the crowd and the skill of the competitors. See yall next year!

  • It was an amazing day! So much fun, camaraderie, sprinkled with a little “liquid sunshine” here and there. The competitors were great, and the entire SparkFun staff were wonderful. Kudos on a great event. Already looking forward to next years!

  • I wish i lived out there and not halfway across the country… it looks like you guys have all the fun out there :(

  • awesome!

  • if you are looking for the recap video it can be found here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVoeSaefO-w

  • I’ve thrown together some of the footage from the AVC. It’s quick and dirty, but at least it’s up. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the little girl who almost got kneecapped by the plane landing. I was so close to her that she is actually under the frame of the shot. Those of you who were there remember it.
    http://www.facebook.com/#!/video/video.php?v=1444529996727
    Enjoy!

  • I just posted a video of most of the ground robots in rounds 1 and 2:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HP631YC_jMk
    BlueBoonDock also posted quite a bit of video from the event, conveniently separating and labeling each run:
    http://www.youtube.com/user/BlueBoondock

  • There are more details on BlueBot at http://www.bluerwhite.org/tag/sparkfun/.
    Let me know if you have questions! BlueBot will be back next year.

  • I could not come but watched it live. Looked like people had a lot of fun. This inspired me to build my own AGV and hopefully will be able to share it and maybe one year i will be able to come live. Almost have all the parts i need to begin, should be fun.

  • Some were asking for writeups on vehicles - what was used, how was it built. Here’s a swing at that from Team Buzzcut: http://bit.ly/buzzcutavc
    To everyone at Sparkfun, thank you for a very fun day. It was great and we can’t wait to do it again next year - improvements already in progress.
    The band was pretty hilarious…so over the top they wrapped around to the bottom again :-) Seriously, the band added a lot of fun.

    • Agreed on the band sentiments.
      One of my life’s biggest regrets is not having recorded that epic song “AutoCrusher”. Making up lyrics in real time according to the behavior of the robot is unparalleled in awesomeness.
      The drummer/singer/Vlad quipped after AutoCrusher finished the run “I hope someone recorded that”. It was at that time that I realized the folly of my filming forgetfulness. Sure it’s great to just sit back and enjoy your surroundings, but some things need to be recorded.

  • My father, my son, and I all had a great time.
    Thanks so much to the SparkFun staff for being SOOO NICE. The food vendors were good, the band was hilarious, the whole spirit of the event was just super.
    Getting my box from SparkFun today with a new GPS…we won’t just be spectators next year! :)
    Thanks, SparkFun!!!

  • Here are some thoughts on the development of my vehicle and the competition:
    http://www.project240.net/auton/avc2010/sparkfun_avc_2010.html
    The page is still in progress and will evolve over the next week a bit.
    Congrats to Team Tobor for winning the ground class. Your robot was remarkably well-behaved, particularly in comparison to our curb-seeking robots.
    Thanks to Nate, the SparkFun team, the band, and fellow competitors for a spectacular experience. Echoing what others have said, I’m excited to try again in 2011.

    • That’s a really nice write-up–good work on the photo captions too, my favourites were “Testing obstacle avoidance steering response is a bit of a hand-waving exercise ” and “Elmo, in a fury of road rage, takes out another competitor. Nate is called in to calm him down.” :)

  • Are there worklogs for these robots? How they were build is the interesting part.
    I was there for the race though, great time!

  • Thanks for hosting such an awesome day! Team Tobor! will be back next year for sure and with better curb avoidance!
    I’ll be writing up a description of my car and the Extended Kalman Filtering (EKF) approach that I used on my blog soon. Also, I’ll be downloading the sensor data from all of my runs and plotting it to see what the robot “saw."
    I cant wait for next year.

  • It would be nice to have any links to descriptions of the robots to learn what worked and didn’t work.
    John Abshier

  • Got to make sure the recap video has the Donuts Coffee Muffins song.
    DONUTS! COFFEE! MUFFINS! 1234! :)

  • I thoroughly enjoyed following the day’s progress on the web feed. Thanks – it was a lot of fun.
    May I respectfully make a few suggestions for next year?
    Position a camera over a table or something, and prior to each run, ask the competitors to place their bot/UAV on the table (so we can see it, and them standing behind it) and tell us what it is. “A 1/10th scale Ford Pinto with a clockwork motor, and a homebrew PIC12C508 controller!” Or whatever.
    For the UAVs, a manually aimed camera that might show a bit more of the flight than the webcams picked up.
    And a FPV feed would be really cool, too, but I don’t know how you’d organize that!
    Thanks again…

  • Ok, I gotta say it. The positioning of the traffic cone in the first picture is…unfortunate. ;-)
    It doesn’t help that he looks like he is saluting, and is being pulled on a cart by a very focused gentleman in a bright orange sweater looking off towards their intended target…
    Sorry, couldn’t help it.
    Other than that, congrats to all! Looks like a lot of fun, I’ll have to try to make it out sometime.

  • looking forward for the video =)
    I want to see Team Robota’s landing again! (I was watching via the live streaming)
    Now … I’ve got an year to convince my girlfriend that the perfect vacation spot in the word is Boulder, Colorado…

  • Would have been an 8 hour drive fore me…had I not done the drive for the failed robojoust I might have come…maybe next year.


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