Archive for June, 2008

Team CajunBot happily hosts Team Acyut of BITS Pilani

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Two weekends ago – June 20 through June 22 – Team CajunBot was pleased to receive 5 talented guests. The guests were from BITS Pilani, a university in India. Samay, Prayag, Sushma, Arpit, and Harsh are the members of BITS Pilani’s Team Acyut, shown in the image below with Suresh and Mark of Team CajunBot, and Mark’s wife Josephine.

Team Acyut was in the US for the robotic competition “RoboGames” in which their humanoid robot participated.

On their way back home, the team paid a visit to Team CajunBot to share information and ideas, as well as a demo. Friday evening everyone socialized over a nice dinner complete with Labanese cuisine. Saturday was the big day, though, with four robotics demos. The first demo was given by Dr. Darby of the UL Engineering department. Dr. Darby showed everyone the UL Engineering line following robot as well as the videos of it in action:

After that, Team CajunBot put on a demo of their own, with CajunBot-II (or RaginBot if you prefer). Our demo was short and sweet, a little bit of intersection behavior, navigating around static obstacles, and convoy behavior just to show some of the capabilities. We were then able to see Murali Chakravarthi, a former member of Team CajunBot, demo his autonomous robotic spider. To wrap things up, Team Acyut showed off their robot’s dancing, walking, and balancing-on-one-leg abilities. All in all, it was a pretty sweet day:

Keeping on the move, however, Team Acyut flew out of Lafayette on Sunday to make a few more stops in the US before heading back to India. We hope to see them again.

President Authement, Thank You.

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

Dear President Authement,

I write this letter with a deep sense of affection for you, an affection derived from the immense impact you have had on my life, second only to the impact of my parents.

It all started in December 2003, when on a whim my colleague Dr. Charles Cavanaugh and I decided that we wanted to participate in the DARPA Grand Challenge. The challenge sought to attract the best brains in robotics from around the world. In contrast the two of us had no experience in robotics. Charles and I went knocking on a lot of doors, trying to convince people that UL Lafayette ought to field a team in this challenge. By and large we were ridiculed for even thinking to compete with the Big Boys. We heard statements like “This challenge is for MIT and Stanford. We do not have the ability to compete in it.”

In January 2004 we learned that there was one person who was willing to bet on our effort. That person was “Doc.” And the bet was real, since “Doc” had also allocated $60,000 to the project.

Having “Doc”, the President of the University, stand behind us when all others were hesitating was an exhilarating experience. While all others were focused on the consequence of failure on the world stage, you were singularly focused on the immense benefit of competing with the big boys on the world stage.

The success of Team CajunBot can be attributed directly to your “hidden hand” behind us. The marvel of your “hidden hand” is the tremendous expertise that is available today on campus. As someone who knew nothing about robotics, I had to look for help in almost every area – mechanics, electronics, sensors, control systems, and what not. I have always been amazed that whenever I needed help I could find it within 100 meters of my office, right here on campus. And the help I have received has been world class. The incredible amount of talent on this campus did not happen by accident. Its a result of your vision, your leadership, and your “hidden hand.”

What you have done to Team CajunBot, I have learned you have done to others across campus. You have made the faculty and students believe in themselves. You have made us believe that we are second to none, that it is our time to perform on the world stage, and that should we fail you would still be in the bleachers cheering for us. Team CajunBot exemplifies what is happening in the splendid new buildings across campus. Every day I meet colleagues and students who are striving for multi-million dollar projects, competing for the monies with the best in the world. You can see it in their eyes and their voices that they not just have the confidence to dream, they also have the confidence to convince the world that they can deliver on their promise.

Your words after our return from the 2004 Grand Challenge are a great source of personal pride to me. You said that “Team CajunBot has put the university where it belonged, right at the top of engineering education.” It is that pride from your encouragement that continues my team and I to strive to for the top.

As you step into retirement, you are leaving behind a very confident university, a university that is ready to demand its share of history, a share it would not have attempted to claim without your vision.

We love you,

Sincerely,

Arun Lakhotia

Leader, Team CajunBot

Finalist 2004, DARPA Grand Challenge

Finalist 2005, DARPA Grand Challenge

Semifinalist 2007, DARPA Urban Challenge