ULL retires Cajunbot

Advocate Acadiana bureau
June 28 2007

LAFAYETTE -- When a local hero retired Wednesday there was no gold watcho r bonus check just some balloons a cake -- and then the retiree was unceremoniously dismantled.

Cajunbot the little six-wheeled amphibious robotic vehicle that twice made the finals of the ultra-competitive Grand Challenge was officially retired Wednesday making way for the younger sleeker Cajunbot II.

The University of Louisiana at Lafayette team took some time from eating cake Wednesday to put some socket wrenches to the little robot that could removing the sensors computer equipment and other items that helped Cajunbot navigate its way through the Mojave Desert during the Grand Challenge.

This year’s event is called the Urban Challenge. It’s again sponsored by a research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense as a way to spur innovation in the development of unmanned autonomous vehicles for warfare.

While Cajunbot was designed to make it from point A to point B on a desert course Cajunbot II is designed to safely navigate city streets with traffic said team leader Arun Lakhotia a professor at ULL’s Center for Advanced Computer Studies.

On Wednesday morning a Defense Department team was in town to put Cajunbot II through the motions to determine whether the Jeep-based robot will be invited to the semifinals at a yet-to-be-announced site.

The 50 teams that have made it this far through the process will be whittled down to 30 or 40 in August Lakhotia said.

Fewer still will make it through to the finals. Because all robots will be on the course at the same time for the finals judges are being quite selective. One robot’s mistake can end up crashing a lot of hard work for other teams Lakhotia said.

Wednesday’s testing went “flawlessly ” Lakhotia said.

This morning a private team from Metairie will be in town with its entry — Team Gray — to have a friendly competition with Cajunbot II.

The teams figure they will both benefit from the practice Lakhotia said.

The Urban Challenge is scheduled for November.

Ray Majors co-owner of MedExpress Ambulance Service watched while the team stripped Cajunbot down to its original six-wheeled all-terrain vehicle.

Majors donated the amphibious vehicle to the team — he uses it to go duck hunting — back in 2003. He said he’ll patch up some of the holes drilled to attach all the necessary equipment and bring it out hunting again.

The little vehicle has had quite an interesting life Majors said.

Cajunbot has met the governor on the Capitol steps. The team drew national attention during the Grand Challenge by competing with the quirky little machine when other larger universities were entering Hummer SUVs and large trucks.

The team also made friends in the desert when it shipped in live crawfish and hosted a crawfish boil for all the other teams from across the country.

Wednesday was no different with the Discovery Channel on site taping an upcoming show that will feature Cajunbot Cajunbot II and some of the other prospective entries in the Urban Challenge Lakhotia said

©The Advocate
June 28 2007

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