Archive for the ‘Other’ Category

CajunBot visits L. Leo Judice Montessori Elementary

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Today Dr. Arun Lakhotia and Mark McKelvy of Team CajunBot took the autonomous Jeep to L. Leo Judice Montessori Elementary. Waiting for them, were nearly 60 eager and bright 2nd graders curious to learn all about what the CajunBot is and how it works.

Dr. Lakhotia explained that using small steps, the team was able to build the robot that is capable of driving itself. Using engineers and scientists from different fields, the vehicle that drives itself became a reality. Many eager questions were asked by the kids too. From “how does the CajunBot know where to go?” to “how do they get the wires in there?”, the kids got to know more about what makes the CajunBot tick. Of course, they also wanted to know what kind of math problems it can solve and how well it can spell.

Check the CajunBot homepage photo gallery for pictures from today.

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

In memory of Bob Trahan, our great supporter and admirer

Thursday, February 28th, 2008

February 27, 2008. LAFAYETTE, LA.

Bob Trahan

Yesterday a great soul wished good-byes to the world. Robert Trahan passed away. I regret that the Team and I did not get the opportunity give him my last respects. I read about his funeral in today’s newspaper.

I just so much wished we had the opportunity to drive CajunBot-II in his procession. You see Robert made CajunBot-II possible. He contributed the bright Red Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. His love for the University ran very deep, and CajunBot-II will forever be a symbol of that love.

Robert really loved Team CajunBot. I felt his passion first hand when I visited him to convey my thanks for the Jeep. His love for the team, as also with any aspect of the university, was unconditional. He was just proud that we were willing to compete with the best in the world. It did not matter much to him whether we did not win the challenge. Notice I did not say ‘fail’. Its because our attempt was success enough for him. In his eyes we would have failed if we did not try. But that we did our best meant that we just did not win.

Its also probably a good time for me to share why I have insisted on using the name CajunBot-II, while the team prefers Ragin’Bot. It goes all the way to the license plate CAJNBOT. This license plate, also a gift from Robert, was ordered when he delivered the vehicle to the university. I learned about the license plate almost a year later. In the interim we had named the vehicle Ragin’Bot. CajunBot-II License PlateI do not think Robert was fascinated of that name. I think he was a Cajun through and through, and prefered CajunBot. Not that he said so to me, but he didn’t show much enthusiasm to the suggestion of creating another license plate RAGNBOT. That Robert (and I believe also his good friend President Authement) preferred the name CajunBot was at the back of my mind as I filled the entry “Vehicle Name” in the DAPRA Entry Forms for the Urban Challenge.

Although Robert has physically passed away, he has left so much impact on the university that he will forever be a part of the university.

– Arun Lakhotia

RTI’s NDDS introduces seamless distributed processing

Saturday, July 17th, 2004

CajunBot has distributed processing, thanks to NDDS from RTI (www.rti.com). The transformation happened overnight, literally, without making any significant changes to the rest of the system. NDDS is a publish-subscribe middleware. It takes care of all the gory details of transporting data between machines. To make our system ‘distributed’ was as simple as writing two programs, a publisher and a subscriber. The publisher takes data from a producer module and uses NDDS middleware to broadcast it on a local network. A subscriber, on another machine, picks broadcasts from the middleware and acts as a pseudo-publisher. CajunBot’s producer-consumer architecture, developed by Pablo Mejia, was well suited for the overnight transformation. Nitin Jyoti introduced NDDS to the team. Four years ago he had evaluated NDDS in another context. When we began brainstorming on how to move to a distributed architecture, he mentioned RTI’s NDDS publish-subscribe middleware. Our initial concern of getting locked into a non-standard middleware was addressed by RTI. NDDS 4.0, the next release, will conform to OMG’s DDS standard. The standard has been pioneered by RTI, which makes them the leader in publish-subscribe middleware.

Arun Lakhotia

Firefly Digital unveils new website

Wednesday, July 7th, 2004

Team CajunBot is gearing up for Grand Challenge 2005. The first step a great new website, thanks to Firefly Digital, undoubtedly the best web designers in Louisiana. I am sure you will agree that the website looks great. What you do cannot see is that the site is also highly functional. The site is completely database driven. So everything can be changed with just a few clicks. The site has great features for CajunBot fans. You can now scribble notes in our guest book. You can subscribe to our news alerts. You can also learn about individual team members, their role in the project, and even send them personal notes. This site will soon become the hangout for the team members too. The ‘Team Area’ provides a place to manage calendars, to keep documents, to story tid-bits of information, and to search all the information base. The site is managed using Firefly Gadget, a web content management tool developed by Firefly Digital. When it comes to managing web content, Gadget is as good as it can get.

Arun Lakhotia

Governor Blanco proclaims June 2, 2004 as CajunBot Day

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2004

Surrounded in a sea of Red and White, on the steps of the majestic Louisiana State Capitol, Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco proclaimed June 2, 2004 as CajunBot Day in Louisiana.

Arun Lakhotia