Geek Out On Tax Day

Autonomous Vehicle Contest hosted by SparkFun Electronics

BOULDER, Colo. March 30, 2009 — mdash; On April 15th, 2009, Boulder-based SparkFun Electronics is hosting an Autonomous Vehicle Competition, bringing likeminded, tech-savvy people together for a day of fun and electronics-bliss. The event will be held at SparkFun headquarters and is free to spectators — mdash; an appropriate price while you’re waiting for your tax refund. The competition boasts sold-out entries from six states and plenty of freedom for participants to exhibit their creative prowess. Vehicles could range from rovers to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)! The rules are few — each team’s bot/car/plane/heli must navigate the course around the SparkFun building under its own control without human interaction.

Pete Dokter, SparkFun Director of Engineering, explains, “It’s a lot different than a simple remote controlled vehicle; these vehicles are smart. They need to be able to navigate the terrain in front of them on their own and still get to their goal. It should be similar to a DARPA Grand Challenge but on a shoe-string budget.”

As information continues to trickle in from the teams, Nathan Seidle, SparkFun CEO, isn’t sure how many spectators to expect or what kind of vehicles will show, but he’s sure it will be an educational day for everyone that attends. Nathan explains, “People who make it out to the event will get a close-up look at what it takes to create an autonomous vehicle. There will be a full range of challenges around the course, ranging from a water hazard, leaves and other debris, cars, people, and probably a couple of the SparkFun office dogs. And the weather could also be a big challenge. There’s not a specific line around the building that the teams have to follow, so it will be fun to see how the vehicles choose their course and handle each of these obstacles.”

Though the winner will receive an award, Seidle notes, “Teams are not flying out here to get the $300 cash prize, they’re coming to hang out with other people who are just as excited about home-brew robotics as they are! It will be wonderfully geeky entertainment — mdash; it’s all about getting together and having fun.”

Visitors are encouraged to bring their own lawn chairs, lunches, and video cameras. The pits will open at 8 AM to allow the 20 teams to get their vehicles ready. Flights will begin promptly at 10 AM and will run five minutes apart. Each team will be assigned three flights. The winner will be announced around 4 PM.

People of all ages are encouraged to attend to see if anyone needs help scraping their microcontrollers off the pavement. For more information about the event visit the AVC information page.

About SparkFun Electronics

SparkFun is a young and quickly growing company dedicated to enabling the electronics enthusiast with gear and resources. SparkFun was named the second fastest growing company in Boulder County by the Boulder County Business Report in 2008. For examples of how customers have used SparkFun products and services in the past, visit Hack-a-Day’s website or WIRED magazine’s article suggesting how SparkFun and SparkFun’s Batch PCB service fit into the Open Source Hardware movement. For insight on Nathan Seidle and the philosophy behind SparkFun, read this article from the February issue of Fortune Small Business.

For more information call AnnDrea Boe at 303-284-0979 extension 123, or email AnnDrea Boe at

To download a PDF version of the press release, please click here.