Trinity Robot Squad Again Finishes Strong in Prestigious Competition

Students Place in Top Five in Two Major Events in Michigan

​HARTFORD, CT, July 12, 2011 – Following up on last year’s outstanding performance, Trinity’s Robot Study Team – consisting of 10 students, five of whom traveled to Michigan – captured fourth place in the Navigation Challenge and fifth place in the Autonomous Challenge in the 19th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC).

The event was held recently at Oakland University in Rochester, MI. Fifty-seven teams registered, 43 showed up and 20 qualified. Trinity’s squad, whose robot was named “Q,” was the fourth to qualify, and went toe-to-toe against some of the most prominent engineering schools in the country.

In addition to David Ahlgren, Karl W. Hallden Professor of Engineering, the students who represented Trinity at Oakland University were Prasanna Gautam ’11; Adam Norton ’12; Steve Petkovsek ’12; Rahul Shakya ’11; and Young Ho Shin ’11. Other members of the team include David Caffrey ’12; Kevin Huang ’12; Osama Khan ’14; John Lehrkind ’13; and Bicky Shakya ’14. Also present were mentors Adam Wright and Paul Wortman, both members of the Class of 2010.

Ahlgren is the team’s adviser as well as the director of Trinity’s annual Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest, an international event that draws more than 100 teams from around the world to the Trinity campus each spring.

The IGVC offers a design experience that is at the cutting edge of engineering education and which encompasses the very latest technologies involving industrial development. As described on its Web site, the competition is “multidisciplinary, theory-based, hands-on, team implemented, outcome assessed and based on product realization.”

​Participants were, from left to right, Paul Wortman '10, Prasanna Gautam '11, Adam Norton '12, Young Ho Shin '11, Rahul Shakya '11, and Adam Wright '10

Four parts make up the IGVC: the Design Challenge, the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) Challenge, the Navigation Challenge, and the Autonomous Challenge. In the last category, robots must drive between lanes marked on an outdoor field approximately 600 feet long. The path includes complex obstacle patterns composed of traffic barrels and other objects. The robots must use sensors to “see” lanes and obstacles and go forward without hitting anything. The time limit on the run is five minutes. Trinity’s team took fifth place.

In the Navigation Challenge, in which Trinity’s team finished fourth, the robots must navigate autonomously and precisely to points on an outdoor obstacle course within six minutes. There are nine waypoints on the grassy field.

The “Q” robot is built on a sturdy base -- a racing wheelchair donated by Permobil, Inc.  The robot has its own wireless computer network consisting of two computers on board and an external laptop that allows students to develop software. One of the onboard computers is dedicated to computer vision tasks, and the other controls robot actions based on visual information and information from an electronic compass, a sub-meter GPS, and a laser ranging scanner. Once the robot is started, connection to the laptop is lost and the onboard computers make all of the decisions.