AVC or Bust

It wouldn’t be June in Colorado without the Sparkfun Autonomous Vehicle Competition. Started back in 2009, the annual event is held in (or nearby) Boulder, CO. While previous years have had an aerial portion of the competition, there was none to be had this year, due to safety reasons.

If you haven’t been to the AVC before, the concept is similar to the original DARPA Grand Challenge, but on a much smaller scale. Specifically the size of the parking lot at Sparkfun’s Headquarters. Ground vehicles (of various mobility) costing only a few hundred dollars are hacked together to compete in heats with other robots typically five robots, though some don’t always make it to the line. The course consists of four right hand turns, barrel obstacles, and other competitors, who may not be as responsible or friendly as Google vs Delphi. There are time bonuses for navigating through hoops and jumping ramps. New this year was shortcut option with an obstacle called the Discombobulator. A spinning platform, aimed at completely disoriented any robot that dared to cross it.

The robots take on all sorts of different designs from the traditionally converted RC car, to a modified FIRST robot. I was highly impressed by an entry in the non-traditional class, of a hexapod.

This is a highly spirited event with a newly added micro robot combat in lieu of the aerial competition and all sorts of workshops throughout the day. Even if you weren’t able to attend there were a few options allowing you to get involved. There was the live web feed and then there was Twitch. Using an EdiBot frame, Twitch was a crowdsource controlled bot, that anyone was able to command taking the inputs as they were received, allowing multiple people to control it at once. What could possibly go wrong? While he was scheduled to run on a few heats, Twitch barely made it off the line to the first Right turn.

Preview of the 2015 course
Recorder feed from the 2015 Sparkfun AVC event

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