UL Lafayette to unveil robotic race challenger

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John Sullivan
December 11 2003

LAFAYETTE — A six-wheeled robot that can think for itself will be in the
spotlight today at UL Lafayette as a team of military officials come to the
Hub City for an inspection.

If CajunBot the name give the six-wheeled robot passes muster today it
will be allowed to take part in a 10-hour off-track race in March between
Las Vegas and Los Angeles.

At stake: a $1 million cash prize for the winning robot.

For the military it could become the forerunner of a new generation of
thinking military vehicles that might one day prowl future battlefields.

The contest is called the Grand Challenge for Robotic Ground Vehicles and it
is being sponsored by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency a
branch of the U.S. Department of Defense.

“The purpose of the challenge is to leverage American ingenuity to
accelerate the development of autonomous vehicle technologies that can be
applied to military requirements ” said Jeff Fortenberry with C&C
Technologies a Lafayette company working with UL Lafayette on CajunBot.

CajunBot has made it to the short list of 35 entries from a 106 original
applicants Fortenberry said.

If the robot makes this next cut it will compete against 24 other teams in
Los Angeles.

U.S. Air Force Col. Jose Negron said Wednesday that the Grand Challenge will
help the Department of Defense in its quest for future robotic warriors.

“The Grand Challenge is a bold effort to draw widespread attention to the
technological issues associated with autonomous vehicles to generate
breakthroughs in performance ” Negron said. The competition combines such
fields as artificial intelligence mechanical engineering fluid mechanics
engine and propulsion system mechanics as well as computers and computer
programming.

Negron said the competition does not state what type of locomotion the robot
can use “it can slither crawl ride or whatever.” The final entries
though must complete the course he said.

The final course is being finalized now said Sal Fish president and chief
executive officer for SCORE.

“We have identified several options for routes between Los Angeles and Las
Vegas that are feasible and meet all the necessary requirements ” Fish said.
“Now we are working closely with the appropriate federal state and local
authorities to finalize a route that is not only safe and avoids
environmentally protected areas but will also make it an interesting
challenge.”

Fish said the final course and the exact date for the Grand Challenge will
be announced after the first of the year.

©The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
December 11 2003