Archive for the ‘Grand Challenge 2005’ Category

Team back home, bots on their way

Tuesday, October 11th, 2005

Lafayette, LA – Most of the team members are back in their respective homes, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, and Wright Patterson AFB. The five hauling the bots are still on their way, expected to arrive by Thursday.

– Arun Lakhotia

Returning to Louisiana today

Monday, October 10th, 2005

Las Vegas – After the DARPA ceremonies ended yesterday, the team moved base to Las Vegas, except Murali, Patrick, and Scott who returned before the closing ceremonies.We are all returning today. Guna headed back to Air Force Institute of Technologies (AFIT) in Wright Patterson Air Force Base.

Danny, Mike, and Jim will haul the two bots back. Adam, Adrian, and Suresh will also return by road. Suresh would like to fly back, but with all the travel complications from Hurricane Rita, he will have to go by road. It may turn out to be not so bad because this time they will take the scenic route, via Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyons.

The remaining are all flying back, incidentally to  Shreveport. That’s where we left the Suburban, which they will use to return to Lafayette.

– Arun Lakhotia

CB actuator motor burned due to long pause

Sunday, October 9th, 2005

Primm, NV – By now you already know that CB was ‘eliminated’ from the competition about 2pm. I am sure friends and fans are curious as to what went wrong, so you can have closure.Here is what happened. The motor on one of the actuators burned. CB was put in pause mode for about fifty minutes to allow other oncoming bots on the track to clear. In the pause mode CB pulls its breaks fully, which means the motors are engaged to their maximum capacity. Normally at this state the motor should lock and not use power. But for some reason, the motor continued to drain power, that too very high amperage. A sustain draw of that level of power for fifty minutes fried the motor.

A single failure is all one needs to be eliminated. All the stars should be in perfect alignment to have a perfect run. This is as true of the Grand Challenge, as any other competitive sport.

– Arun Lakhotia

CajunBot Cookout Heats Up Grand Challenge

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

Primm, NV  (3:15 PM PST) — Three vehicles have completed the Grand Challenge, and only three active vehicles remain on the track. Even though CajunBot did not finish, it performed very well against a formidable field of competitors. Even though CajunBot did not finish, there is still good reason to cheer for Team CajunBot. As we speak, Brother Majors and his crew are heating up the Grand Challenge with their black iron pots and wowing the crowds with their fantastic crawfish etouffee. The CajunBot Cookout is presented by Brother Ray Majors, a follow-up to last year’s popular cookout. It’s a fine way to bring three of the many joys of Cajun life to everyone here; great food, fun and good people. The crawfish was donated by Chez Francois Seafood ( in Lafayette. The people attending this year’s Grand Challenge won’t soon forget Brother Majors’ etouffee, or CajunBot!

 Danny Majors reveals the etouffee.  Danny serves the etouffee over rice.
CajunBot Cookout Team:
(from left) Brother Ray Majors,
James Milligan, Danny Majors,
Mark Majors and John Majors
— Mike Spears

Real-time update on

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

Primm, NV – CB and the team is waiting in the pit area. The launches are going slower than projected. One bot is disabled along the way. I believe launches have been stopped until it is retrieved.We are upbeat. All systems are functional and ready to go. The course is designed so that the bots come back near the start area in about twenty minutes. That is the only time in the course the bots will be in visual range, except one they get to finish.

You can get (close to) real-time updates on

– Arun Lakhotia

The Day begins

Saturday, October 8th, 2005

Primm, NV – The DAY has arrived. The first team to start received its route file at 4:00am. So they must have been up since 3:30am. We will receive the route file around 6:00am. There are some advantages of starting at the tail end. We plan to be at our pit at 5:30am.

This route file contains a sequence of GPS points (latitude, longitude). This sequence gives the path the bots are expected to follow. Along with each point is given width of the path at that point, and the speed limit.

– Arun Lakhotia

Last minute addition, an extra gas tank for generator

Friday, October 7th, 2005

Primm, NV – Today was relatively easy day, sort of lull before the storm. DARPA rehearsed the launching of bots. The first bot launches at 6:30am Pacific time on Saturday. Subsequent bots are expected to be launched five minutes apart. CB will be launched close to the end, between 8:10 – 8:30am. It could be later if there are any delays or complications in launching.Since there was not much planned today, the day was going pretty slow. Majority of the activities were related to media people interviewing and taking pictures. Scott was interviewed by NBC, and will likely be on the national news tomorrow (Saturday). Wise Man Daro and Scott were interviewed by BBC Radio, for a live broadcast. Pablo interviewed by Toms Hardware. And there was New York Times, German news, Road Trip America, and whole gamut of others milling around.

In this lean time, someone, I do not know who, started a test to see how long our generator could run on a full tank. We are using a Honda EU 2000 generator to produce power for the computers, electronics, and sensors. When the generator dies, the system dies as well, within 45 minutes, the time needed to use up the UPS power.

Turns out the generator could run for only 7.5 hours, or something like that. This was not good news. It essentially meant even if everything behaved perfectly, CB would run out of power and stop before reaching the finishing line.

Finally, there was some energy in the team pit, an area in the parking lot behind Buffalo Bill’s. Someone, in all likelihood Adrian, came up with the idea of yanking the gas tank from an old generator, that recently died on us, and attaching that tank to the existing generator.

In no time the old generator was ripped apart and its gas tank taken out.

Next question. How and where do you mount this additional tank?

There were all kinds of solution floating around, when the Wise Man Daro spoke. He had a crazy, but brilliant solution rooted in Nigerian principles of fastening. His idea was to wrap the gas tank in snow fencing, which we have plenty of, and tie it to the frame of CB. (Snow fencing is large sheet of plastic with holes. It is orange in color.)

In no time, Adrian (or was it Joshua, no I am sure it was Adrian, though I prefer to credit Joshua, but will not this time) and Murali had wrapped up the tank in snow fencing, mounted it on CBs frame with zip ties, and connected its outlet tube into the input cap of the generator.

Now we believe CB has power to run for at least 15 hours, sufficient time to finish the track, if all else holds together.

– Arun Lakhotia

What’s Up with Buffalo Bills

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

Primm is no more than a spec on the map about 40 miles outside of Vegas. No doubt, if you sneeze, you’ll miss it. However, if you’re paying attention you’ll find an oasis in the desert. On the right, there’s Buffalo Bill’s, home site for the DARPA Grand Challenge. It’s the place to be for the next few days.On the other hand, it seems like a great place to be anytime, especially if you have kids. Aside from a big casino on the first floor, there’s a roller coaster and a barrel ride the cuts through the hotel and wraps around the outside of the hotel. It’s a great respit from Las Vegas or a pit stop along the way if you’re coming from Cali! Just to give you an idea of the wow factor of Buffalo Bill’s check out these pics.

— Mike Spears

Cajun Cookout by Brother Ray Majors

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

I-15 West, approaching Baker: As I write this, Brother Ray Majors is on his way, flying to Ontario, CA. He is carrying with him 30 pounds of crawfish tails, and two big bags of Cajun Rice. Danny had already brought with him big iron pots.Brother Majors will host a Cajun Cookout on Saturday, October 8th, in the evening after the Grand Challenge.

The cookout is being repeated this year on popular demand. From the very day we came to California Speedway, we have been asked the questions “Where is the crawfish?” and “When are you cooking crawfish?”.  Some said, “I missed the crawfish last time, I hope I do not miss it again.”

So Danny called Brother Majors, and he agreed to fly in and do the cookout. First they thought they’d need 10 pounds, then it was 20 pounds, then 30 pounds. The crawfish was donated by CajunBot supporters Andre and Heath at Chez Francois Seafood ( in Lafayette. These guys ship worldwide!

Given the popularity of the event, there is a concern that there may be more people than the food. To manage the crowd Mike Spears of Firefly Digital designed the above ticket, and printed 150 of them. Over the last two days, Danny has been handing out the tickets, and they have been going away like hot cakes.

The plan for cookout was put in place before the NQE results were announced. The plan was to have the cookout one way or the other, whether we were in the finals or not. That is the Cajun spirit. You got to enjoy life during ups and during downs.

Now that we are in the finals, the cookout will be all the more exciting.

– Arun Lakhotia

Buffalo Bills, Here We Come

Thursday, October 6th, 2005

I-15 NORTHBOUND – The Chase Team left Ontario, Ca about noon with RaginBot in tow, headed for the Buffalo Bill Resort in Primm and the Grand Challenge. The mountains and hills that stream past us remind me of a Gunsmoke episode or two. Three cowboys; Marshall Dillon, Festus and Newly ride the hard road of the western trail leading from Dodge City to danger, adventure and western poetry. The landscape is as beautiful as it is harsh and the sun beams upon this iron horse with a vengence. Whether you’re on foot, a horse or a motor vehicle these brown hills beam with the red and brown hews of the desert mountains. We’ll be in Primm soon, and these moments of visual pleasure will soon turn to a focus on getting the CajunBot from start to finish in 10 hours time.

— Mike Spears

P.S. Join me in wishing my little girl happy birthday. She’s 1 today.