AVC 2012 Recap

Thanks to all who made it out to SparkFun HQ for our best competition yet!

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As you may know, last Saturday was our fourth AVC -- SparkFun's annual autonomous vehicle competition -- and this year was by far our best yet! The weather was great, the robots were many, and one mystery human danced around in an octopus costume. A big thank you to the record number of folks who made it out to observe the madness, and congratulations to all our competitors; you guys crushed it, literally and figuratively.


Vimeo version here.

Everyone's a winner, but inevitably someone has to take home the medals, so mad props to all our champions:


  • 1st Place: Team Overhead, with an official time of 36.62 seconds
  • 2nd Place: Team Robota, with an official time of 44.50 seconds
  • 3rd Place: Lost in Air-Space, with an official time of 1 minute and 54 seconds


  • 1st Place: Team 0x27, with an official time of 2.08 seconds (yep, you read it right -- the robot nailed the hoop time deduction)
  • 2nd Place: Team Minuteman, with an official time of 9.46 seconds
  • 3rd Place: Team Databus, with an official time of 37.16 seconds

Crowd pleaser: Die!Wheel!
Rookie Award: Short Circuit
Best Dressed: Kegbot
Water Hazard: Viator
Engineer's choice: Namniart
Kill Switch: Snobbotics

We also added a new category this year out of necessity. Sometimes, when robots are given control over their own destiny, things can get unpredictable and dangerous, and can even result in bodily injury. This year a couple people sustained minor injuries at the hands (claws?) of these tiny rogue machines, so at the last minute we whipped up some Purple Heart awards for Databus and Snobbotics. Walk it off, guys!

Stay tuned for our full recap video in the coming weeks. Thanks again to everyone who came and participated, and we can't wait to see you again next year!

Comments 45 comments

  • Tone / about 12 years ago / 3

    Had a blast! We're not deterred by coming in 3rd for the second year in a row. Every line of code and dollar spent is worth the medal! :)

    Great job to Overhead and Robota, very impressive! Finally, amazing work by the Sparkfun cast, you guys worked your butts off and it showed, truly remarkable job well done. Looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.

    Team Lost in Airspace

  • Calif / about 12 years ago / 2

    Will edit video for food.

  • pescadito / about 12 years ago / 1

    hey, this competition rock!

    can anybody tell or explain me if there any world competition or association to deal with this category of air uav models? that will be very interesting.

    i know there are many categories in aeromodelling ruled by http://www.fai.org/aeromodelling, http://www.fai.org/ciam-our-sport, http://www.modelaircraft.org/, http://freeflight.org/, but apparently none of these deal with uav's

    best regards, pescadito

  • FRHN / about 12 years ago / 1

    On the barrels, perhaps a small penalty for knocking them over would be better than filling with water as a solid hit on one with water in it could mean the end of the day for a competitor. A twist could be to waive the penalties if you hit all 4.

    • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

      It would be better though to keep them weighted and either slow down or add avoidance programming.

      As I posted above, knocking them out of the way seems so brute force.

      • FRHN / about 12 years ago * / 1

        Making them weighted and thus likely to prematurely end the day with destruction on a first run for a rookie is unecessary harshness. Less experienced competitors deserve as many runs as they can do to give them a good time and keep them coming back.

        If you want to penalize the "inelegance" of hitting a barrel, just add 5 sec for each barrel knocked over. But a twist would be to elliminate the penalty and give a 1? sec per barrel bonus only if you hit and knock over all 4. That would require the "elegance" of a vision or like detection and targeting system and hitting them all would likely be harder to accomplish than avoiding them all.

        It would also make for better TV. Hmmm.. then perhaps not such a good idea for the Sparkfun officials to wear barrel colored shirts........

      • Roger7 / about 12 years ago / 1

        What's so wrong with brute force? That's how dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

        • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

          Then I'm coming with one of these.


          what barrels, what water

  • FRHN / about 12 years ago / 1

    Hmm how about extra points for a carrier takeoff and or landing on a big model carrier in the pond.

  • Wylly / about 12 years ago / 1

    Looking forward the recap!! I wish I could have been there

  • Sam R. / about 12 years ago / 1

    I'm totally signing up for next year. When does the signup open???

  • I have decided to come out for this some year. That looks like so much fun! Just nerding out together. hey what microcontroller did you use? Oh i used this! Oh you musta done that then? Actually I did this sweet method called this.

    I will come out in a greenman outfit.

  • JerryH / about 12 years ago / 1

    Terrific Day! Thanks to Sparkfun for hosting another phenomenal event! We had a great time--even though the only award we came away with was the 'Water Hazard'. Thankfully all our electronics survived the dip in the pond.

    We're already talking about improvements for next year!

    -David and Jerry, Team Viator.

    • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

      It's hard to tell from the videos, but is the pond by Sparkfun big enough for an autonomous boating event, or perhaps an amphibious course?

      • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

        Maybe http://goo.gl/maps/5m7z

        • John Price / about 12 years ago / 1

          There looks to be a creek and open field, thus "ATV AVC"

          • Far_Seeker / about 12 years ago / 1

            Yes I took a look on Google Earth the pond looks big enough for a small water course, especially if they were creative with the layout. Also the creek and the open areas would make for interesting amphibious design challenges, but I don't know if they have the ability to use that land.

            • MikeGrusin / about 12 years ago / 1

              Re. our local government, the pond is considered protected wetlands and thus shenanigans are prohibited (as much as we'd like to). From a practical standpoint, it's also choked with algae, has a vile muck bottom, and is filled with creatures you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley (which a few of us actually have).

              Having said that, there are other local bodies of water which could be used for such a competition, and we'll definitely consider it! (It would be very cool to revive the once-epic local Kinetics competition as a robot challenge.)

              • chartle / about 12 years ago * / 2
                • choked with algae
                • has a vile muck bottom
                • filled with creatures you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley (which a few of us actually have)
                • Those are called hazards. :-)

            • It would be so cool if we could do a all terrain distance challenge!

    • JerryH / about 12 years ago / 1

      Oh, and thanks to the band, MPG! We had requested a song be written about our AVC entry and... they came through with a jazzy, almost instrumental tune. We really like it. When can we purchase the song on MPG's first album?

      -Team Viator

      • Hey Jerry and team Viator, Glad to hear you enjoyed your song! We had fun writing and performing it. It's always a blast to rock out at the AVC.

        Funny you should ask about an album, cause this year we thought we'd like to hit the studio. You can pre-order your copy here:


        Thanks again for competing, and we look forward to seeing you again next year!

        -Pete, Matt and Casey, The AVC Band

        • JerryH / about 12 years ago / 1

          Pete, Great news! We pledged for your Kickstarter project. We hope you get enough funds to see this project through. We're looking forward to a CD with all the greatest AVC hits, including: "We all work in production", "Death by Dihydrogen Monoxide" and of course, our favorite: "Viator".

          You need to get the word out on your Kickstarter project--perhaps you could devote a Sparkfun blog post to your effort?

          -Team Viator

  • numinit / about 12 years ago / 1

    Is that 3729 in the background at 0:02? :)

    Seriously, you guys are awesome for letting us come out. Major props all around. It was a lot of fun.

  • _hunternet93 / about 12 years ago / 1

    I though 2.08 seconds was a bit impossible until I realized that was after the hoop bonus.

  • SlyVixsky / about 12 years ago / 1

    another idea: helium weather balloons tied to approx. 6' diameter red hoops, these tied to the ground hoops, so the aerial vehicles have some obstacles too :)

    • or we could just give everyone slingshots...

      • Ichbinjoe / about 12 years ago * / 3

        I enjoy your absolutely destructive view on all of this.

        • Shark blimps controlled remotely by customers online furiously typing captchas. Or we could just strap live rodents to the aerial vehicles and release the condors.

          • you mean these rodents?:


            A telnet-controlled zombie badger would be awesome.

      • This is a fantastic idea. A wrist rocket is, what, ten bucks at x-random sporting goods store?

        Come to that, Trumark is a Boulder company. Maybe we could talk 'em into a discount on a bulk order...

      • I like your idea more.

  • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

    Suggestion for next year.

    Put some weight in the barrels so they just can't be pushed aside. Much easier to make a heavy bot with a nose designed to bulldoze its way through the barrels rather "seeing" them and having to navigate around.

    • I personally like the ability to plow right through them. Not all robots could accomplish this, and for those that could, it was fun to see.

      • Perhaps one should be full of water, and the others empty. Then it would be funny to see a huge bot hit it and crumple! Any chance of aerial hazards?? (Cargo net + weather balloons?!?)

        • chartle / about 12 years ago * / 1

          That was suggested in another post, but I didn't see much precision flying. I'm assuming it was because of the wind. Some planes were trying really hard to correct its course. Some I think gave up.

          It would be very hard to do even with complete RC control.

      • chartle / about 12 years ago / 1

        Still think its cheating in someway. The spirit of the competition is autonomous vehicles. Not "Get the Hell out of my way" vehicles. :-)

        It was neat though to see one smack a barrel out of the way and correct its course.

        • keep in mind there is a whole new set of challenges to having a robot smack something out of the way and either not break, or not get off course.

          there are a lot of ways to skin a cat.

          someone asked me this year what stops someone from just plowing through everything on the course. I told them this "a powerful motor, a motor driver capable of driving that motor, and a power source capable". let's face it, a small scale RC car is a lot easier to hack than a 100lb robot.

          • Might I suggest mortars for the barrels? And perhaps a class of autonomous SAMs, to, um, compliment the aerial category?

          • Member #332972 / about 12 years ago / 1

            Wasn't the bot that injured people the one that pushed the obstacles out of the way?

            • yes. and the injured contestant was made fully aware the other robot was starting behind him. he chose to stand in the line of fire.

  • Ichbinjoe / about 12 years ago / 1

    Well, at least all shown in the video should feel good that they gave me ~30 seconds of autonomous amusement.

  • sgrace / about 12 years ago / 1

    You guys should post up a picture of what the Purple Heart looks like.

    • We have a pic, our photographer is just going through all the ones he took from that day. Give it some time, it will get posted on flickr.

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