No qualification run today, a busy day nonetheless

Fontana, CA – The track was moving a lot slower today, so we did not get called for a second ‘run’. In DARPA terminology, two ‘runs’ make one ’round.’ DARPA guarantees to offer one round per team, but is hoping each team would get three rounds. Final evaluation will be based on the cumulative results.Today we did not get any run. But we still had a pretty busy day.

Yesterday, the three McGyvers, Mural, Joshua, and Adrian, had noticed that the sprocket connecting for the transmission on the left side was a bit off, coming out. They had started working on repairing that, but could not complete the repair. They came in early today to work on it. (10/01/05: I had earlier called them three amigos. But I think its more the three McGyvers is more appropriate, given their ability to make things out of what most may consider junk. Hint: TV show called McGyver.)

Turns out that the small size and ambhibious nature of the vehicle makes it really hard to operate on. Its belly is closed, which means if you drop anything while working on it, it stays in the belly. Its small size the engine area is pretty well packed, which makes it hard to reach into small, cramped areas.

When used as an ATV, it has seats that can be removed to reach these cramped spaces. But we have stacked almost 1,000 pounds of metal and electronics, cut through the body to attach our gear, and have wires and fuel lines running through. It would take almost a day to remove all our gear, then put everything back, and the re-calibrate all the sensors and actuators.

So you can understand what happens when the team members dropped a socket when trying to fasten a bolt. It took them over three hours to get the socket out on top of the hour needed to fix the problem they had started to fix.

With our hands full dealing with mechanical issues, we had no reason to complain that we did not get another run. If we were not ready when offered a run, then DARPA is not obliged to give us another offer.

Incidentally, the heat today was really bad. The sun just burns through the skin. The dirt and sand in the air only makes the matter worse.

To make it a little more comfortable for the team, today we rented a 36 feet long bus. Its pretty plush inside with nice sofa, kitchen, fridge, shower, bathroom, and bed. Tomorrow we will fit the bus to make it our computer room.

Oh by the way, our second run is scheduled tomorrow early morning. We have to be ready to go around 6:45am.

– Arun Lakhotia

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