Archive for the ‘Grand Challenge 2004’ Category

Majors family delights all with Crawfish feast

Sunday, March 14th, 2004

Its all well that ends well. Especially, if it ends with a great feast. Thanks to the Majors family (Ray, Mark, Danny, and Anthony Majors), Team CajunBot closed the DARPA Grand Challenge with a Crawfish feast for all attendees. On the opening day, Clotiel, the 6ft crawfish from Begnaud Manufacturing (www.begno.com) was the center of attraction. While it was attractive, people commented that they’d rather have the real thing. Danny Majors, member of Team CajunBot Chase Team, took the comments to heart. He got the phones ringing for crawfish tails, Louisiana Crawfish tails not the Chinese variety, but could not find any in the vicinity. He had to go back to his tried and favorite: Tony’s Seafood of Baton Rouge. Tony’s was excited about the opportunity to delight folks with Louisiana crawfish, and readily offered tails on cost. Louisiana Crawfish goes well with Louisiana Rice. There was none such available in the local stores. The task of bringing rice and crawfish to California fell to Ray, Mark, and Anthony Majors. They picked 15 lbs of crawfish tails, 20 lbs of long grain rice, a 30 lb metal cooking pot, and other assortment of pots, and proceeded to the airport. At check-in the found their package had exceeded the weight limit and would have to pay an arm and a leg. The quick thinking Majors pulled out the bags of rice, put them under their arms, and said, “Well this is our carry on baggage.” The news of crawfish arrival spread rather fast. Every now and then we’d hear people say, “Are you really cooking crawfish?,” followed by “when,” and “where.” As the Challenge came to a sudden halt, the action shifted to cooking crawfish. The Majors sped ahead and setup a tent in the parking lot of Buffalo Bill’s Hotel and Resort. The tent was not too far from DARPA’s exhibit area. By 6:30pm on Sunday, shortly after the press conference, the Med Express tent started humming. The word was still spreading, literally through word of ‘mouth’, as people walked around with bowls filled with rice and etouffe. Dr. Tony Tethers, head of DARPA, and his wife relished the food, as did Col. Jose Negron, the person in charge of DARPA Grand Challenge, and program managers from DARPA. The tent was also filled with journalists, some asking if they could invite themselves. Within an hour the pot was squeaky clean. The rice was all gone. In one day Team CajunBot and MedExpress showcased Louisiana to the rest of the world. We can compete with the best in technology, and then beat them all with great food.

Arun Lakhotia

Lafayette Motors C&C Technologies MedExpress Firefly Digital

Team CajunBot returning on March 15

Sunday, March 14th, 2004

Most members of Team CajunBot will be returning to Lafayette (airport) on March 15 at 10:30pm. Scott Wilson will return today, March 14 evening. Muralidar Chakravarthi will return to Baton Rouge by the red-eye.

Arun Lakhotia

All bots out within 8 miles

Sunday, March 14th, 2004

All fifteen bots were out within 8 miles. The bots of Carnegie Mellon University and SciAutonics II went the furthest. Team DAD’s bot went six miles, and that of Golem Group five miles. The bots of Team CalTech, SciAutonics, and Team TerraMax completed one mile. CajunBot and the remaining seven bots did not complete a mile.
Final status of the teams
Arun Lakhotia

CajunBot and five other bots out

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

Well folks, CajunBot is out of the competition. She started out well, but for reasons we are still investigating, had a little extra veer to the right. As it started out of the track, due to the extra veer it hit against the concrete boulders. The impact hit the emergency stop button on the bot, which turned it off. CajunBot was seventh to get out of the chute. Of the six ahead of it, only two were still running. The bot immediately after CajunBot sped out of the chute but shortly therefater flipped over. We have mixed emotions. We are happy that we made it this far and sad that we stopped too short out of the line.

Arun Lakhotia

Wait is on at Slash X Cafe

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

We are at Slash X Cafe. The local time is 5:15am. All the teams have received the waypoint file, the route that the robot should take. We have projected the route on satellite imagery of the area, provided to us by Brent Yantis of NASA Regional Application Center. If one were to assess the difficulty of the route from the imagery, the route looks straightforward. It appears to travel around the Stoddard Valley OHV Area, then follow powerline road into Barstow Area, go through a section of Needles, and then head on straight towards Primm following a trail that was once used for Barstow to Las Vegas dirt bike race. The route appears to be best for the nimble. Two days ago we attempted to add NTP capability which is necessary for gaining speed, We were unsuccessful. Hence, our current plan is to run at a snail’s pace. Most people do not expect anyone to complete the whole route. Given that, our goal is to be the last person standing. The opening ceremonies start at 6:00am (local time) and the race begins at 6:30am. The DARPA Grand Challenge is likely to be an important event in the history of technology. We feel proud to be part of it.

Arun Lakhotia

Schedule for the BIG day

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

Folks, the BIG day has arrived. For our fans, here is the schedule for the day. First the time zone. We are in Pacific time zone, two hours behind Central Zone (Louisiana time). When it is 3AM here, it is 5 AM in Louisiana. The team will wake up at 1AM (yes, that’s AM, an hour past midnight). Pack bags, and head out at 2AM. Well, at least the ‘bot’-handlers will be out by 2AM. Others will follow within the next half hour. We expect to arrive at Slash X Cafe in Stoddard Valley OHV Area around 2:45 AM. We must be there by 3:20AM. However, we do not want to take chances with car trouble, traffic problems, and the likes. At 3:20AM DARPA folks will give the first six teams the RDDF file. RDDF stands for Route Data Definition file. The file will contain the route DARPA wants our bot to take. The route will consist of a sequence of ‘way points,’ given in latitude/longitude form. Also included in the route file will be the width of the track between two way points and the maximum speed permissible along the track. The next six teams, which includes CajunBot, will get the same information half an hour later. The opening ceremony will start at 6:00am. At 6:30am, the first bot from the Red Team of CMU, will leave the chute. The next five bots will leave at five minutes interval. There are only six chutes at the opening line. The next six bots will then load up the chutes. Ready to leave at 7:00am. From there on the schedule depends on the performance of individual bots. Most DARPA folks expect that the field will get narrowed down to 10 within 3 miles, and then reduced to 3 within 20 miles. The route is expected to be tough.

Arun Lakhotia

Track CajunBot during the race via internet!

Saturday, March 13th, 2004

You can track the race via this website tomorrow! -aDam

Tracking the Race

aDam Dupre’, adamdupre12@yahoo.com

CajunBot in Slash X Cafe near Stoddard Valley OHV Area

Friday, March 12th, 2004

CajunBot is now at Slash X Cafe, the starting point of the challenge. The cafe is at the edge of Stoddard Valley OHV (off highway vehicle) area. The place is around 4,000 feet above sea level. I had always associated high elevation to cooler weather. This place has questioned that belief. This place is hot. It is hot and dry. Even though the place is surrounded by snowcapped mountains, the soil here is dry. As I drive around the town I am reminded of Rajasthan, my home state in India. The soil is dry and lose. There are green shrubs all over the place, but barely any large trees. Within an hour in the open, your face gets covered with a thin layer of dirt. The houses too have earthen tones, just like in Rajasthan. In their free times, adults and kids in this area, take out their dirt bikes and travel the OHV areas. They take pride in not taking the beaten path. That also explains the numerous ATV trailes, which look very similar to the mud roads of Rajasthan. The race is expected to be on such ATV trails. I am using the word ‘expected’ because we still do not know the route. It will be given to us two hours before the race. Incidentally, the Grand Challenge is not a ‘race,’ though that is the word that comes closest to describing it. Its not a race because it is against the law to race on (some of) the OHV areas. So the Grand Challenge is a Challenge. The name Slash X Cafe is a bit curious. The middle letter has interesting connotation. If there was any such conception in the teams mind it was put to rest by a dirt-biker who visited us. I cannot recollect the exact words he said. The overall implication was that the waitresses in the cafe can put a New York bouncer to shame. Most of them have few front teeth missing, and you better not ask any of them why. The Slash X Cafe is also in the middle of nowhere. It is the only building, if you can call it so, in a valley for as far as one can see. Once you get there, you better be prepared for their asking price for food and drinks. My teammates have already gone to Slash X. I am in no rush to go ‘nowhere.’ Besides, I do not know if I’d find connectivity there. Before I head there I want to make sure that CajunBot fans get their daily dose.

Arun Lakhotia

Team CajunBot’s Sim Team

Friday, March 12th, 2004

The Sim Team, as the trio Nitin Jyoti, Suresh Golconda, and Arun Pratap, is called is one of the reasons for the remarkable performance of Team CajunBot. The team was put together in early February, triggered by a comment made by Tony Maida. Tony mentioned that most robot development kits come with a simulation environment in which one can first test the software before it is loaded on a robot. That made perfect sense. The team started thinking about how to build a simulation environment that can help in debugging our software. A simulation environment, for those not in the know, is a computer program that (in our case) will ‘act like a real world.’ It will be a virtual world, a world that solely exists in machine, but it would generate the same stimulus as a real world. Computer games, like those for Nintendo, X-Box, etc., are examples of virtual worlds. Arun, Suresh, and Nitin were brought into the team in early February to develop a simulation environment. By the time we arrived in Hesperia, CA, the simulator environment was ready. This environment (a program) had a virtual 6-wheel car with all the sensors that our real robot had. With a little bit of work we were able to connect our robot software with the simulated world. Now we could test our robot in the comfort of our hotel room, instead of running around in the desert. On March 8th when we had to quarantine our robot, we reverted to the simulator. Our first integrated system, ready on March 9th, was tested on the simulator. The testing revealed several errors, that we corrected. When our bot made is maiden run on March 10, we had a very high degree of confidence that we’d fare well. Though we had not had the chance to run the bot (because it was quarantned), we had run the bot in our simulator. It is because of the simulator that we could have a near-perfect performance in just three test runs.

Arun Lakhotia

CajunBot qualifies to be at the start line

Friday, March 12th, 2004

CajunBot has qualified to be at the start line in Barstow. She is ranked 7th in the list of 15 selected. CajunBot fans: rejoice and paint the town red. It was a defining moment of joy, accomplishment and glory, as the media, competing teams and fans rejoiced in a roar as CajunBot was announced as the 7th of 15 teams to qualify to line up at the starting line. It’s been a tedious endurance race simply to get to the start line, with many members of the team staying up all night last night and with little sleep prior. For the moment, satisfaction is at hand.

Arun Lakhotia & Mike Spears