I’m sure the mention of Spring conjures up a lot of images for most folks – flowers, sunny days and such. It makes me think of robots. Of course, I think of robots quite a bit since I work with them every day here at UTARI, but this time of year is when the pace picks up. It’s when there’s a buzz around the Research Institute. It’s when students crowd into our building to prep for competition.
UTARI is home to five student robotics competition teams: IGVC (Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition), SUAS (Student Unmanned Air Systems), RoboBoat, IEEE Microrobotics, and the NASA Rover Competition team. The ground, air and water competitions are hosted by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI), which has a large outreach program at the K-12 and collegiate levels.
The requirements for all five competitions are impressive, requiring a combination of navigation, design, mobility and sensor capabilities that result in a robotics platform that can maneuver and conduct whatever tasks the competition requires. Our students work with UTARI researchers and affiliated faculty throughout the year to meet these requirements, and come May and June, they’re on the road to compete and test the design and functionality of their robotics. Industry partners, including QinetiQ North America, L3, Bell Helicopter and Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control, sponsored the teams in 2013, helping them prep for contests in Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, and Karlsruhe, Germany.
Teams are gaining momentum, not only from the support of faculty, researchers and industry sponsors, but from taking advantage of the resources and facility space in UTARI’s Autonomous Systems Lab. At the beginning of 2014, the Autonomous Systems Lab began to take shape, culminating in the Unmanned Systems Consortium at the end of January. UTARI student robotics competition teams had a huge impact on the event – providing demonstrations and talking to attendees about their work. Team members represented themselves well, and the participants at the Consortium (and Dallas/Fort Worth media) took notice.
And the media is bound to take more notice in the coming month with National Robotics Week set for April 5-13th. For our part, UTARI will join the celebration by hosting a National Robotics Week Expo on Wednesday, April 9th, giving Dallas/Fort Worth businesses and organizations the opportunity to showcase their most impressive robotics. Think of a Robotics Flea Market – no vendor fees, no price for admission – just folks coming together to look at the latest technology. We hope you will be able to join us – it’s bound to be an exciting event. And who needs flowers for Spring when you can have robots?
The Way Ahead
What organizations do you think would be interested in demonstrating at the National Robotics Week Expo? What type of robotics technology would you like to see at the event? How do you think we can more actively engage students in robotics?