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CajunBot greets Gov. Blanco at Capitol

Mike Hasten
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June 3 2004

John Rowland/The Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Gov. Kathleen Blanco honors the CajunBot team Wednesday on the steps of the Capitol in Baton Rouge. The robot was built by UL Lafayette students as the school's entry into the Grand DARPA Challenge.

BATON ROUGE - CajunBot UL Lafayette's self-guided computer-driven all-terrain vehicle climbed the Capitol steps Wednesday to greet Gov. Kathleen Blanco who lauded it as evidence of what can be done when the public and private sectors work together.

CajunBot runs on gasoline but it is fueled by brainpower Blanco told the gathering of state officials and UL Lafayette students faculty and alumni.

This was created as a way to protect our troops and has put Louisiana on the map in technology development.

"What you're doing " Blanco told the university research team that designed the vehicle "is important to Louisiana's future. This is a fine example of
innovation and new technology."

Sally Clausen president of the University of Louisiana system called the vehicle "a technological wonder."

The crowd cheered as the vehicle this time driven by a student using a device similar to a computer game controller traveled up a sidewalk near former Gov. Huey Long's statue and gravesite crossed a parking lot rolled up a set of steps and then spun in place to face Blanco.

University researchers answered a U.S Department of Defense call last year to compete in a national contest to develop an unmanned vehicle that can read terrain maneuver over long distances using satellite location signals and negotiate turns without contact with humans. The military is trying to develop autonomous "thinking" vehicles to replace ground combat forces.

Of 106 applicants UL Lafayette was one of only 13 selected to compete on a 200-mile course through desert and mountainous conditions between Barstow Calif. and Las Vegas. None of the vehicles completed the course and claimed the $1 million prize but CajunBot has been invited to compete again in November 2005 for a $2 million prize.

©The Lafayette Daily Advertiser
June 3 2004


Contact: Christine Payton     
Date: June 2 2004
(337) 482-6397 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco welcomed UL Lafayette’s CajunBot to the Louisiana Capitol and declared Wednesday as “CajunBot Day” throughout the state.

CajunBot UL Lafayette’s entry in the $1 million U.S. Department of Defense’s Grand Challenge this spring climbed 12 Capitol steps as the governor legislators and members of the university community watched.

CajunBot’s welcome to the State Capitol coincided with annual the UL Lafayette Alumni Association’s annual Red & White Day. Members of the Association met with lawmakers to talk about issues that affect the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and higher education.

Blanco said the robot was “an outstanding example of the brainpower we have here in Louisiana and at our universities.”

“ This is a great Louisiana creation ” the governor said. “It represents the ingenuity we are striving for here to retain our brightest minds.

“ CajunBot runs on gasoline but it is fueled by our brainpower.”

UL Lafayette’s CajunBot was one of the 13 vehicles that competed in the Grand Challenge on March 13. Three of the finalists were developed by other universities: the California Institute of Technology Carnegie Mellon University and Virginia Tech.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency the central research and development agency for the U.S. Department of Defense created the Grand Challenge to encourage the development of an autonomous ground vehicle capable of navigating on its own. The U.S. Department of Defense has been mandated by the U.S. Congress to have one-third of its ground combat force unmanned by 2015.

In the Grand Challenge in March unmanned robotic vehicles attempted to travel about 200 miles from Barstow Calif. near Los Angeles to Primm Nev. near the outskirts of Las Vegas. DARPA offered a $1 million prize to the team whose vehicle was the first to cross the finish line within 10 hours.

None of the vehicles finished the course. The longest distance traveled by any contestant was 7.4 miles.

Software developed by UL Lafayette interprets Global Positioning System coordinates to plot CajunBot’s path. Lasers in the front of the vehicle scan the terrain to detect obstacles. “Skid steering” enables it to change direction. CajunBot’s movement can also be controlled remotely via a modified joystick.

UL Lafayette’s Team CajunBot is composed of faculty undergraduates graduate students alumni and business partners with expertise in many areas. Dr. Arun Lakhotia an associate professor in UL Lafayette’s Center for Advanced Computer Studies was Team CajunBot’s project leader. Dr. Charles D. Cavanaugh an assistant professor in CACS was the technical leader of the team.

A total of 106 teams applied to participate in this year’s race. Eighty-six of them submitted required technical papers. If a team’s paper was approved the team was visited by DARPA officials who then narrowed the field to 25 contestants eligible to participate in a Qualification Inspection and Demonstration in California. At the completion of the QID there were 15 finalists; two withdrew at the start of the race.

The next Grand Challenge is tentatively scheduled for November 2005. The prize has doubled to $2 million. CajunBot has already qualified to participate in that race.

Student takes robotic challenge

Thursday April 01 2004
By Christine L. Bordelon
Kenner bureau

With only three months of preparation a team of students and teachers
from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette including one student
from Kenner built and entered an autonomous ground vehicle in the
federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Grand Challenge
held March 13 in California. The six-wheel-drive all-terrain
10-foot-long vehicle called CajunBot was one of 15 to qualify March
8-12 to participate in the 142-mile challenge run from Barstow
Calif. to Primm Nev. in a 10-hour time limit. From Our Advertiser
In the 1.5-mile qualifying demonstration the CajunBot did well on a
man-made obstacle course at the California Speedway team member Josh
Bridevaux of Kenner said. "It got three-fourths of the way through the
obstacle course " said Bridevaux 21 a fourth-year computer
engineering student. "The only reason it didn't get through was that
there was a malfunction in the emergency-stop system " In the actual
race the CajunBot vehicle brushed a wall when it came out of the
chute and was removed from the course. No other vehicle completed the
course either. The closest anyone came to the finish line and the $1
million cash prize was 7.4 miles out of the chute. Bridevaux was part
of a team that included six undergraduates seven graduate students
and several professors including professors Charles Cavanaugh Arun
Lakhotia and Tony Maida of the University of Louisiana's Center for
Advanced Computer Studies. It was the first time a team from the
University of Louisiana at Lafayette had entered the competition
Cavanaugh said. "I saw it as a segue into imbedded systems and
robotics and it would look great on a student's resume and give them
a unique experience on a hands-on project that was of great
significance to the university as well as the state " Cavanaugh
said. The CajunBot vehicle was equipped with computers and laser
sensors. It had an inertial measurement system that functioned as a
compass and measured roll pitch and heave. It was programmed with an
algorithm for obstacle detection that was written by Maida. The
CajunBot was one of four or five vehicles actually up and running the
day before qualifying. "It worked " Bridevaux said. "But we had a lot
of problems with it. Every morning we had to fix something." The
invitation to participate in the race came after a Department of
Defense team visited the Lafayette campus in December and judged the
vehicle worthy. "We built it all at ULL " Bridevaux said. "We started
Nov. 10 and the Department of Defense checked it out and tested it in
December. Four days before they came out we totally rebuilt the
vehicle. They were impressed with how much we could do." Bridevaux
estimated that the team worked 200 hours a month in January and
February to prepare for the race and 19 hours a day while in Los
Angeles during the competition. While the CajunBot didn't finish the
course Bridevaux said the experience he gained was much more valuable
than even the potential $1 million prize. "No one was expecting us to
complete the race " Bridevaux said. "It was a learning experience for
next year. I probably learned more about the electronics and computer
science than I've ever learned in school before. I got to work with
really smart people and did things I had never done before. I was one
of the main guys who wired all the hardware in the vehicle. It held up
well during the race." "Josh's contributions have been valuable to
us " Cavanaugh said. "He has done a lot work in systems integration of
electronics and has also been of great help in the testing phase. He
is an essential part of the team."  The CajunBot team is already
talking about entering the 2005 competition and Bridevaux plans to be
on it. "We will try to build on what we have as much as we can "
Cavanaugh said. "You may see multiple entries from us if we can get
enough sponsors behind us. We need funding to buy an inertial
navigation system that costs over $100 000. That's a key component if
we don't have that we don't have as good as system as we had this
time " which was borrowed.

Send e-mail to Christine Lacoste Bordelon at
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©2004 . All Rights Reserved.

Team resumes work on CajunBot vehicle

Originally posted: (March 26 2004)

Source: The Daily Advertiser

Team resumes work on CajunBot vehicle (No longer available)

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