Autonomous Vehicle Competition - April 17th, 2010

The Autonomous Vehicle Competition was such a fun time, we're going to give it another go! Checkout the video recap and the homepage post of last year's AVC. This year the competition will be held on a weekend! Bigger. Better. Faster!

April 17th, 2010 10AM - Rain, shine, or snow

Create a vehicle that can autonomously navigate
around the SparkFun building

$300 cash first prize
Spectators are encouraged to come check out the fun! It's a great spring day full of hackery, tours, and if we're lucky a robot or two in the lake. If you plan on coming to the AVC, please register!


  • 1 Lap. Start line to be determined on race day. Shortest time wins.
  • You get three attempts schedule throughout the day. Best time of the three laps will be used.
  • Two classes: Ground / Air.
  • Two $300 prizes: Goes to the fastest lap in each class.
  • Be sure to chronicle your vehicle build! We'd love to feature your bot on our site as the race approaches.
  • In-house SparkFun teams are not allowed to spend more than $300 on their vehicle, but the general public is simply encouraged to think 'lite'. You are welcome to find/re-use any parts you can find/get donated.
  • No base stations allowed. All computation must be made from within the confines of the mobile platform (think DARPA).
  • No environmental modifications allowed. For example, you cannot install IR LEDs around the building or put a 3" wide strip of tape on the asphalt
  • Bots start separately. No mass start.
  • We plan on an exhibition lap with a mass start just to see how it goes.

    By purchasing this product you are purchasing an official entry to the day of competition. You are welcome to purchase an entry at any time, but last year we had a problem with people signing up and then 'not being able to make it'. We will have more team entries than spots available, so to prevent teams from signing up and then being unable to attend, we will require every official team to submit a video no later than April 1st showing their robot driving forward and making a turn. Nothing fancy. If an official team does not submit their video in time, they will forfeit their spot and the spot will be given to a team on the waiting list.

    We know what it's like on demo day (nothing works), but bring whatever you've got!

    Definition: "around the building" - bot must go around the external four main walls of the SparkFun building. You pick the course and direction. Most teams will probably be on the black top (asphalt) but the choice is yours. We will not be moving (real) parked cars, dumpsters, or snow ramps, but we will be stopping parking lot traffic.

Autonomous means your bot/car/plane/heli has to drive itself. You press the start button, three seconds later the robot begins navigation under its own control. There can be no human interaction. The car cannot receive any commands over any medium from a human operator. It is allowed to transmit debug information and receive any other signals (GPS, proximity, etc).

Rules are subject to change on a whim. It's mostly like last year, with more sparklers.

The SparkFun crew is pretty stoked. You are encouraged to form/create your own team. You are welcome to ask a SparkFun engineer anything you want - we're here to help.

If the weather decides not to cooperate (if it snows more than a few inches), we will move the competition indoors. Don't depend on GPS too heavily...

Prerequisites: **None! Bring a robot.
April 17th, 2010 (a few days after US Tax day)
Time: 10AM to around 3PM

Looking for a course preview? Look no further (well, a little bit's just below)!

Autonomous Vehicle Competition - April 17th, 2010 Product Help and Resources


Looking for answers to technical questions?

We welcome your comments and suggestions below. However, if you are looking for solutions to technical questions please see our Technical Assistance page.

  • TheRifleman / about 16 years ago / 2

    Kings to the guy who lives too far away to make it, FEDEX's his entry and wins anyway.

    • I will only be impressed if the guy's car knows it has arrived at SparkFun, hacks its way out of the box, and THEN wins. :)

      • Some kind of honorable mention might have to go to anyone whose car can just social-engineer FedEx into driving the box in a circle around the building.

  • "20 in stock"? "Price $30"?
    Somebody needs a more flexible content management system for Christmas ;-)

    • Sam R. / about 15 years ago / 1

      Well now its "no stock". ;( I wish I could go!
      Sam R.

      • Sam R. / about 15 years ago / 1

        Is there anyway that a small group of two highschool students could maybe enter? Even if it is out of stock??
        Sam R.

    • :) Ya - the "20 in stock" is just to let us know how many people/teams to expect. We figured it would just be us engineers standing outside in the middle of a good spring blizzard, but you never know!

  • Member #245715 / about 13 years ago / 1

    can you use a rc helicopter or a quad copter for the uav part of the Competition

    • Kamiquasi / about 13 years ago / 1

      A quadrotor was used in the 2011 competition. You'll have to keep an eye out for the 2012 rules to see if you can enter a quad or heli for 2012, though.

  • mappum / about 14 years ago / 1

    I wish I lived close enough to take part in this :/
    When are you guys going to expand and have a Seattle warehouse?

  • Flobgobbit / about 14 years ago / 1

    Can one team have more than one robot?

  • azrobbo / about 14 years ago / 1

    In future years - might you consider holding courses on the Thursday and/or Friday before the event?
    This would provide extra incentive for folks who live far away, and want to travel in to watch the competition. I realize the many people at Sparkfun are probably getting ready for the competition, but there has to be a few folks around who could teach the course.
    Just a thought, that might drive even higher spectator attendance.

  • stevie / about 14 years ago / 1


  • Say, this event happens during National Robotics Week... maybe you should post details here to drum up more interest? :)

  • john.t.erickson / about 14 years ago / 1

    Out of stock :( Well, I've started by build log anyway:

  • Can't help but notice that the new banner suggests signing up to this event, even tho it has been filled up (out of stock) for a while...

  • Jim_Blues_Harp / about 14 years ago / 1

    I just found out about the competition, and I've got a team together, but we'd like to have some idea of how long the waiting list is before we go signing up and putting a lot of time and energy into this. If it's a short wait list compared to the number of team slots, then we'll probably go for it. If not...

  • Sam R. / about 15 years ago / 1

    Wait, if it is out of stock that means that no one else can enter?????? NO!!!!!!!!!!!! :(
    Sam R.

  • I bought a "ticket", but how do I show for it? Under order tracking I have it as "New Order" in terms of the status... is this correct? Didn't get a confirmation or anything (I bought it a while back).

  • DonutsCoffeeMuffins / about 15 years ago / 1

    It sounds like the rules disallow the hand-launch of a plane. Is that correct? My plane has no landing gear, so I'm trying to figure out how to get it airborne without getting disqualified...

    • Hand-launch is allowed, but auto take-off and landing will earn you massive respect points. These points are about as valuable as "internet dollars".

      • AdamB / about 14 years ago / 1

        When does the clock start for your lap time? For the UAV (air class) in particular, I'm thinking when it crosses the start/finish line (like a lap in a car race) but I didn't want to design around that without checking first.
        Also, is there any height restriction on the course for a vehicle in the air, as long as it is outside the four walls of the SparkFun building?

  • Attention all. While we have just purchased the last (and most winning-est) spot in the competition, we look forward to some healthy competition. ;)
    Nate, any limitations on practice runs (i.e. only the day of, or whenever's clever)?

    • Hi! You might not have the last spot ;) We will be allowing people to backorder and then take the spot of any teams that drop.
      Practice runs the day of the event will be tricky as we will have a large crowd and a full roster. We will probably open up practice runs the day before (Friday).

    • elmer_fud / about 15 years ago / 1

      I think there were some people that showed up the weekend before for practice runs last year. Our teams went and scouted out the course a few weeks/months ahead of time last year.
      As for rules for/against/about practice runs Nate will have to respond for the "official" answer

      • I understand w/r/t no computations being performed on a base station, but can we have a base station provide the initial start command and then solely receive debug info, or do we need a physical button on our robot?

        • A remote/wireless start button is allowed. A remote kill switch is also encouraged.

  • gordonrp / about 15 years ago / 1

    Just signed up! We are already building something. It will be exciting to meet other like minded people etc! Will be driving up from Austin, TX. See you there...

  • This thing is damn cool ...
    If it wasn't thousouds of mile away from me, I would be here ...
    I May think about proposing the same competition in France next year !
    Best regards,
    Thomas Legrand.

  • CiricTech / about 15 years ago / 1

    I really wish this was on a weekend or some time I had off from school. So yeah for those of us in school you should have one of these on a weekend so I can fly in and make it back in time for class. On a side note this is Sweet!

    • You're in IS on a weekend! Fly out Friday night and be back in time for Monday morning organic chem! Huzzah :)

      • imMute / about 15 years ago / 1

        I so want to go just to watch and shoot the breeze with SparkFun employees. Now.. to figure out how much a round trip plane ticket from Minneapolis to Denver is..

  • rtadlock / about 15 years ago / 1

    I live just outside of Boulder and I was wondering if it I can just come watch the competition?

  • Jack Biggs / about 15 years ago / 1

    is that Chris Anderson? head of DIY Drones? these guys are gonna be in for some rough competition :)

  • Jordii / about 15 years ago / 1

    Hey my love land Tijuana! LOL

  • DennisFerron / about 15 years ago / 1

    The grey area at the 4 o'clock position in the aerial photo you provided of the parking lot looks suspiciously like water! Do you have a pond next to the parking lot? (I'm wondering if I need to add an "emergency water avoidance" protocol to the robot; or simply fill the cracks in the case with silicone so it'll float if it falls in.)

    • That is indeed a pond - though you'd have to hope a curb and traverse some bushes/weeds to fall in!

      • DennisFerron / about 15 years ago / 1

        Uh oh, my robot is quite capable of both hopping a curb and mowing down a few bushes (or small trees!). Maybe I better program the IR heat sensor to also make it avoid (cold) water!

      • And by "hope" I meant "hop." D'oh!

  • project240dotnet / about 15 years ago / 1

    Does anyone, Sparkfun employee or otherwise, have a video tour of the parking lot?
    Viliam, thanks for the GPS track, quite useful. If you are planning on riding around the building again, could you mount a video camera to the handlebars and film the route, perhaps in one or both directions?
    I am curious to see what surface can be expected on the course. In all cases, I am certain that a Mini Z would be a bit unsuitable for the race.

  • rmeyer / about 15 years ago / 1

    You require pictures chronicling each day of the build?
    What if I have an existing vehicle I want to enter? Could I just post pics of any additional preparations from here on?
    (The current vehicle I have is already autonomous and GPS guided- any preparation would be in increasing the speed and testing the obstacle avoidance at the higher speeds.)

    • trevor / about 15 years ago / 1

      Don't sweat it overmuch. Just chronicle it as much as possible.

  • CalebHC / about 16 years ago / 1

    Will anybody be recording this event? I would love to see it after it's all done! :)

    • trevor / about 15 years ago / 1

      Yes, I believe that we'll have a video camera capturing the event, and we plan on posting the edited movie shortly thereafter.

    This is a GeoChron generated track of three laps around the SFE building on a bike. I tried to stay as close to the curb as i could but there was a car parked on the north side of the building so i had to avoid it. The yellow track represents where i was biking and the green track is the GPS position. Please note i did not have WAAS enabled.
    This should give an idea of what to expect from GPS.

    • Sriv / about 14 years ago / 1

      Villiam, the bubbleshare site is not showing ur stuff. can you plz post it somewhere else?

  • guardianguy / about 16 years ago / 1

    "your bot/car/plane/heli has to drive itself." Can a dog be the "mechanical" part of it and the robot forces the dog to move around the building? kind of joking but kind of human interaction..the dog is like a "car" and the robot navigates.

  • morcheeba / about 16 years ago / 1

    I thought the forums might be better able to handle the 3+ months of dialogue we'll probably have on this subject, so I started a thread.
    I kicked it off with a photoset from my walking tour of the course.
    Looking forward to the competition!!

  • afosterw / about 16 years ago / 1

    A few questions:
    1. Can there be some sort of launcher for the start, as long as it too is autonomous.
    2. Does the vehicle need to stop itself at the finish line.

    • trevor / about 15 years ago / 1
      1. Nothing can be left behind on the track. If you have a launcher, it needs to be autonomously cleaned up by the vehicle.
      2. This hasn't been specified, so until someone makes a rule about it, I guess not?
        Why, are you working on a rocket-powered vehicle?
  • PieRSquare!Round / about 16 years ago / 1

    What does the competition turn into if it moves inside? That's the part that worries me.

    • trevor / about 15 years ago / 1

      The chances of it not only snowing, but snowing enough that we move it inside, on April 15 of this year when almost all of the snow is being deposited on the western slopes of the Rockies, is so low as to be negligible.
      I'm pretty sure we'll tough it out through anything but a full-on blizzard, outside.

  • mmmlinux / about 16 years ago / 1

    I wish i lived closer, i would love to enter the competition.

  • amk503 / about 16 years ago / 1

    Oh I'm so there. I was at the sparkfun building just a few days ago picking up parts for an autonomous bot I'm building. This is just too appropriate.

  • Quadcopters will be the vehicles to beat.

    • amk503 / about 16 years ago / 1

      I'm thinking the modified gas powered RC cars cruising at 60mph will be the thing to beat :)

      • PieRSquare!Round / about 16 years ago / 1

        They make it sound like there will be snow, will your car have chains?

      • morcheeba / about 16 years ago / 1

        style points only if you drift it!

  • Bauman / about 16 years ago / 1

    can our 1 vehicle be several different mini vehicles, unteathered to eachother?

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