Objectives and Motivation:
The Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge outdoor robot contest challenges
mobile, ground robots to autonomously navigate paths throughout the suburban campus of Penn State
Abington College while avoiding obstacles and tackling off-road detours.
Robots must carry a 1-gallon container of water, and each robot must attempt to
"entertain" spectators. The objective of this contest is to promote advances in engineering design, computer
technologies, artificial intelligence, and robotics education. This contest was partly inspired by the DARPA Grand Challenge robot
initiative to spark innovation in intelligent robot vehicles. Unlike the DARPA
challenge, however, the Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge will allow for
low cost (yet highly sophisticated) robots to compete, and requires spectator
This competition is open
to participants of all ages (any K-12 or college, or professional). One of the unique features of our competition is
that we are providing information on how to construct a low-cost robot platform
to be (optionally) used in this contest -- the software, sensors, and interface
is all left to you. The availability of a low-cost robot platform will allow for
a wider range of participants and will also allow participants more time to
concentrate on intelligent software, sensors, computer vision, navigation systems, and
artificial intelligence. Participants may use any hardware and software
technologies in the contest.
This robot contest is also dedicated to educating the public
and local community in the areas of engineering, computer software technologies,
robotics, and to stimulate interest in these technical fields. As such,
spectators of all ages are welcome and encouraged to observe the Mini Grand
Challenge robot event. Robots will be required to interact with and
entertain the spectators during the contest. Robots will be rewarded for
exhibiting interesting behaviors such as joke telling, song playing, voice
announcements, in addition to navigation. Remember, these robots are
computer-controlled and completely autonomous -- not remote controlled. This
event is the first of its kind -- so anything can happen. The first Penn
State Abington MGC event was offered in 2005 and participation has been growing.
( Only one robot to date has
successfully completed the entire course.)
See videos of the 2010 Penn
State Abington Mini Grand Challenge robot:
A Mini Grand Challenge
robot contest and demonstration is scheduled for
Saturday, April 16, 2011 at the
Penn State Abington College in Abington PA (USA). Practice, orientation, and
on-site registration time will be held from 9am to 12noon
(all robots must pre-register using the registration form on this webpage;
registration is free). Robots may also be demonstrated and on exhibit in
the outdoor areas or the Woodland lobby area. The contest and exhibit area are
open to the public as spectators. There will be no charge for the spectators or
participants. Dress is casual. Free parking in Woodland Building parking lot will be available. All ages are
(Sat.,April 16, 2011):
8am - 10am --- Mini Grand Challenge setup, practice, registration (Woodland
Bldg. lobby and outdoor areas)
10am - 12noon --- Mini Grand Challenge contest (outdoors behind Woodland Bldg)
12 - 1pm - Demonstrations and Award Ceremony (Woodland Bldg Lobby, 112
11am - 1:00pm --- Free pizza and soda for all participants, spectators, and guests
(Lares Building Cafeteria)
Note: there will also be
an indoor Firefighting Mobile Robot contest (12:30-4pm) being held at the campus on
the same day as the Mini Grand Challenge. Please consider exhibiting your
robot to interested students and teachers at the events.
Outdoor MGC Contest Rain
Date: Sunday April 17, 2011 (8 - 11am) Check with organizers to verify any rain date
(Note: actual duration of contest will vary depending on number of
robot entries and other issues)
A robot must be
Any type or configuration of commercially-availablebatteries is
permitted. No combustion, gasoline-powered, or liquid-fueled devices of
any kind will be permitted. No combustible or flammable materials of any
The robot may be
constructed of any materials (unless in conflict with rule #1).
Robot platforms may be home built, or purchased commercially. We have an example of
a low-cost robot platform based on the PowerWheels(tm) battery-powered car.
This platform (or equivalent) is recommended, but is not necessary that you use this design. Any computer technology
may employed to control the robot.
Robots should operate
in the 1 to 5 mph speed
range. Robots exceeding 5mph will be penalized and possibly eliminated and removed from the contest.
There is no speed advantage in this contest. A robot completing the
course at 2 mph will receive the same performance points as a robot that
completes the same course at 5mph.
Robots must transport
1-gallon container of water(payload) throughout the course. The water payload may be distributed
over multiple containers -- as long as the total combined volume of water is 1
Robots must possess a
clearly recognizable, labeled manualemergency stop button or toggle switch which directly cuts power to all
drive motors until a reset action is performed. There is no requirement for a wireless emergency
stop feature (primarily because the robots are of low speed).
The robot vehicle must
be able to be physically lifted and carried by two,
average-sized humans. We expect robots in the 25 - 75 lb range. The weight
requirement allows for impaired robots to be physically removed from the
The maximum physical size
of the robot (including any sensors, etc.) is a volume of dimensions 6
feet by 6 feet by 6 feet. There is no minimum size. T No
standard-sized cars or trucks are permitted on the campus paths.
There may be no
communication (i.e. no RF, WiFi, Bluetooth, cellular, IR, audio,
visual markers, beacons, cables, etc.) between the robot and any external
devices or humans during the contest run. Communication with and control
of the robot, prior to and following the contest, is allowed, and may be
desirable to move the robot to and from the contest course area to the parking
lot, for example. Reception of publicly-available global positioning
satellite (GPS) signals is allowed. No
data on the reliability of GPS reception will be made available. WAAS
correction availability is also unknown. Some paths could be adjacent to multi-story buildings
or other obstacles which could affect and limit GPS reception.
It is permissible for components onboard the robot to
communicate internally via
Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, IR, etc, but please notify judges if this communication is
A robot entry will
consist of a single entity -- teams or swarms of robots are not
permitted in this challenge at any time.
Robots should be
characterized as ground robots, and achieve locomotion via
contact with the ground surface. Aerial robot are not permitted.
The path defined for
the robot will consist of 2 major parts:
Part 1 of the
journey will take place on a paved (asphalt) path (approximately 7-8 feet in width). The start
position of the robot will be on the paved path. There will be
waypoints (checkpoints numbered WP #1, #2, #3, #4, #5) at specified locations along the paved path. Ideally,
the robot should not leave the paved path at any time during Part 1.
The robot will be penalized, but not disqualified, for leaving the paved path
at any time during Part 1. The robot must be completely positioned on
the path at the waypoint locations to receive points.
During the Part 1 phase of the journey, the robot should stop
(between 2ft and 6ft) of any obstacle (e.g. human or another robot) that is present
in front of the robot on the paved path. The robot should not
attempt to swerve around the obstacle in Part 1. Once the obstacle
is removed, the robot should resume forward motion. Orange cones (12-18
inches high) will be used to block inaccessible path routes where there
are path intersections and forks in the path (see diagram below). During
Part #1, the robot should follow the curvature of the paved path between
waypoints, which will not necessarily be the straight line between
successive waypoints. Once
the robot has reached waypoint #5 on the paved path, then Part 1 of the
contest is completed. The robot need not stop at any waypoint during part 1
(except for an obstacle).
Part 2 of the journey will require the robot to move completely off of
the paved path (after reaching waypoint WP#5) and travel across an unpaved,
grass and dirt covered field to the final goal waypoint (waypoint WP #6). The
robot should remain within a 30-foot wide, unmarked corridor when traveling from
waypoint #5 to waypoint #6. This off-road field may contain stationary obstacles
such as trees, boulders, large trash cans, and sheep (okay, there won't be any sheep).
These stationary objects will be at least 10 feet apart. There will be no
obstacles within 25 feet of the final waypoint. It is possible that the robot will be required to cross over a paved path on
route to waypoint #6. During Part 2, the robot should avoid (move around) any obstacles on its way
from WP#5 to WP#6. That is, during
Part 2, a robot should not stop and wait for the obstacle to be removed as in
Part#1 of the contest. Basically, obstacles encountered between
waypoints #5 and #6 should be considered stationary and immovable. When the robot reaches waypoint #6, then
the robot come to a complete stop. The robot should stop within 30 feet
of waypoint #6. There will be a set of orange cones
blocking the paved path at waypoint #5 (see diagram below), thereby forcing
the robot to move off-road to waypoint #6. There will be no marker of any kind at
waypoint #6 (final goal) for the robot to detect. Any markers present at
waypoint #6 (final goal) will be for the sole use of judges and spectators.
distance of the prescribed course (both paved path and off-road) for
the robot will be approximately 0.5 miles in length or less.
There will be no
markers, lines, beacons, or other indicators or markers along the
paved or unpaved paths (except for use by judges).
Orange cones blocking
inaccessible paved-path segments will be spaced approximately 2 to 3
feet apart. The cones will be 12-18 inches in height.
The paved path course
may contain several steep gradients (see campus pictures below).
Any course path will be passable by a "Power Wheels (tm)" type of robot.
The 6 waypoint
coordinates (longitude, latitude) will be provided (emailed) to the
participants prior to the contest. If a robot moves to within 20 feet of
the waypoint, then the robot will be awarded points for that waypoint.
Robots should be completely on the paved path for waypoints #1 to #5.
There will be no additional GPS coordinate data provided beyond the 6 waypoint
corridor area between Waypoint #5 and Waypoint #6 (final goal) will be passable by a small
"Power Wheels (tm)" type of robot as described in this contest page. There will be no impending cliffs or
bodies of water along this 30 foot wide corridor. There will be no external
markers to designate the boundaries of the 30-foot corridor that may be used
by the robot. Any markers
will be for judging and spectator use only.
In Part 1, robot should
be following the specified curved paved path between the waypoints, not
necessarily the straight line segment between the waypoints. The waypoint (checkpoints)
may be marked with flags (or other markers) for use by the judges and
spectators. The robot should not attempt to identify or localize these
waypoint markers. Waypoint #5 will be clearly identified by the orange
cones blocking the path. In Part 2, the robot should follow the straight
line (while avoiding obstacles) across the field between waypoint #5 and waypoint #6 (final
goal). The robot should stop at waypoint #6 (within 30 feet).
Participants and robots
will be permitted access to any 25% (maximum) portion of the campus
contest pathway prior to the contest. Participants are not
permitted to operate or "walk" the robot, or collect data (GPS,
video, etc.) through the
specified contest route beyond the 25% portion permitted.
If a robot remains stationary for a duration of 60 seconds and is not waiting for a
paved-path obstacle to be removed, then the judges will declare the robot "brain
dead", and order that the robot be physically removed from the course.
This action will signify the end of the match for this robot. A robot is
permitted to stop (and think) at any time, but the robot should not stop for more
than 60 seconds. A robot should move at an average velocity of 1 mph or
greater (but less than 5 mph). A robot which moves at a speed of less than 0.5 mph
on the path for 10 consecutive minutes or more will be eliminated. This rule is to eliminate a robot which,
for example, might move at a speed of 1 inch per minute and take hours to
complete the course. Minimum speed decisions will be made by the judges
based on available time.
A judge and one or two
robot operators will accompany each robot throughout the course.
The judge and operators will be at least 5 feet behind the robot and will not
communicate with the robot in any way. In the event of unexpected or
potentially dangerous robot behavior, the robot operators will be instructed
to disable to the robot. No human contact with the robot is allowed
except in the event of an emergency stop.
are welcome and encouraged to observe the robot contest, and spectators are
expected to be present throughout the contest course. Spectators will not be
permitted to make contact with the robots or step onto the paved path in front
of a robot. Feedback from spectators will be used, in part, to score the
robot "personality" portion of the contest. Spectators will be
permitted to stand along the borders of the path (but not on the path itself).
Robots will receive personality points for communication with spectators and for exhibiting entertaining
behavior throughout the course. These behaviors might include playing
music, voice announcements, identifying squirrels, telling jokes, etc.
Sounds generated by the robot should be audible to the average human at a
distance of 10 to 20 feet outdoors. Please test your sound system outside --
you may need 20 to 30 watts of power for effective outdoor sound generation.
The contest will take
place in most weather conditions - except serious rain or a
storm. We plan to offer the contest in the event of light rain. Check this website for latest news on weather cancellations. Cancellation
information will be posted to this website, or you may email the organizers
will be based on the following performance criteria (100 points total):
Completion of Part 1:
paved-path route within appropriate speed range and reaching waypoints #1 to #5 --
robots will receive 10 points per waypoint, for a total of 50 points. The robot should be completely
on the path at some point within 20 feet of each of the waypoints to receive
the full 10 points. A 2-point penalty will be incurred each time the
robot moves off the path, or makes contact with orange cones during Part 1. A robot must completely move off
the path to incur this 2 point penalty, or physically move or dislocate an
Completion of Part 2:
off-road route (waypoint #5 to waypoint #6 within corridor and avoiding
obstacles) -- 20 points.
Proper avoidance response to
human obstacles and other robots on paved path (2 events) -- a robot
will receive 10 points for each successful stop in the presence of a human
or robot obstacle for a total of 20 points. Judges will determine when and where
robots will be tested. One obstacle test will be performed before the robot reaches
Personality - interesting, cool, and
otherwise intelligent robot behavior observed (examples include voice
announcements, identifying spectators wearing hats, singing, telling
jokes, educating spectators about robots, providing tour of campus, etc.) --
up to a total of 10 points
5 on-path waypoints (@10 pts
each) = 50 pts
waypoint (across field with obstcles) completion = 20 pts
2 obstacles (@10 pts
each; Robot must stop between 2 and 6 ft of obstacle ) = 20pts
Personality and human
interaction = 10pts
Total points = 100 pts
Each robot will be
permitted at least one attempt to navigate the campus course.
Hopefully, there will be adequate time for 2 attempts. The robots will be started in a random fashion and there will be at
least a 2-minute
interval between successive starts. Additional runs will be allowed
based on time constraints. In the event of multiple runs, the final
score will be the best score from any of the runs. Waypoints would
remain the same for the additional runs, but the start position might change,
and the course layout might change (along with changes to the orange cone
Any robot that
violates the spiritof the contest rules, in the judgment of the organizers, will be eliminated
The actual course
route (6 waypoint coordinates) will be disclosed (emailed) to
registered participants at least 24 hours prior to
the contest start time. The
position of human obstacles and other paved-path obstacles will not be designated on the actual course
route. There will be no other path diagrams or path information posted
other than the 6 waypoint positions (these positions are
accurate to within 30 feet or so.) The exact start position on the path will
be disclosed at the start of the contest. The exact start position for
each robot might vary (within 75 feet), but all robots will start from the
same general area.
The robot requirements
and contest specifications have been designed to remove any potential for harm
or damage to the campus landscape, spectators, and wildlife. The judges
reserve the right to disable and remove any robot that demonstrates any
inappropriate behavior, or is deemed to be potentially
hazardous in any way. Runaway or "out of control" robots will be dealt
with promptly and removed from the contest.
We ask all Mini Grand
Challenge participants to participate in a robot exhibit and
demonstration event for spectators (from 12noon - 2pm) in the Woodland
Building lobby area and the outside contest area.
All robots will compete in the same division.
It is expected, due to the technical challenges of this contest, that K-12
participants will be assisted by college level and professional level mentors.
However, there will be additional recognition for K-12 entries. We may revise this
policy depending on the number of registered entries at various levels.
A single $500 prize will be awarded to the robot scoring the most points (above
50 points). A robot must score more than 50 points (out of 100 points) to
be eligible for the $500 prize. If no robot achieves 50 points, then there
will be no cash prize awarded. Certificates and other non-cash awards may
also be presented. In the event that a robot team wins the cash prize, the award
will delivered to a single designated team member within 3 weeks of the contest.
Additional prizes may be announced at the event.
If you are a company or
organization, and you would like to sponsor a prize for this contest, please contact
Go to Contents
paths will not be closed on the day of the robot contest. The Abington
campus is a commuter campus located in a suburban area and there is little foot
traffic on the paths on the weekends. There will be another event taking
place in the gym (on the other side of the campus) during the same weekend, but
little interference in anticipated. Spectators will be welcome, but the
spectators will be asked not to interfere with the operation of the robots.
in the rules above, there will be orange cones blocking off forks and splits in
the path network for PART 1 of the contest.
set of images below were taken on May 5, 2005 at 3pm. Conditions may vary on day
and time of contest. These path pictures are examples only -- they may not
reflect the actual path on the contest day.
set of images below were taken on November 23, 2005.
Click on thumbnails below to display a full size
orange cones blocking off path at fork
orange cones designating last waypoint on path (WP#5)
Here are some pictures
taken on November 23, 2005 at 11:30am of the campus. The images shown
below do not necessarily correlate in any way to the actual path on the day of
the contest. Click on thumbnails to view full-size images.
Grand Challenge robots and robot designers are invited to provide an exhibit and
demonstration of their robots from 1-4pm in the Woodland Building lobby. This is an opportunity to
answer questions from the general public, demonstrate the robots, and
discuss plans for next year's Mini Grand Challenge.
The Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge robot competition is open to
all students and adults of all ages and backgrounds. Students and adult participants need not be sponsored by a school, club, or
The registration is free. The competition is limited to
a maximum of 20 robots total. Deadline for registration is March 31, 2011, Registration will be
closed when the limit is reached
for or the date of the registration deadline is reached --
whichever occurs first.
Please register each robot via the form
provided below. Fill out and electronically submit one form per robot
(click on submit button). Participants who do not register on time will not be guaranteed
participation in the contest. Registration information should appear on the "Who is
Registered?" web page within 48 to 72 hours after submitting the registration form.
This registration form
is for the April 16, 2011 Mini Grand Challenge event.
Directions To Penn State Abington
From PA Turnpike take exit #27, follow Rt. 611 South 3.4 miles to Abington,
turn left on Woodland Road, look for Abington Hospital on right and Inn Flight
Restaurant on left. Follow Woodland road for 0.5 miles. Campus is on right. Take
first entrance on right (past Cloverly Lane) and park. Go through main entrance
of Woodland Bldg. (white stone bldg adjacent to parking lot). Upon entering
Woodland bldg, enter first set of doors to your left -- this is room 112W, the
auditorium. You could also proceed downstairs and enter auditorium from lobby.
(From Phila area, take Rt. 611 north, past Rt 73, and make right onto Woodland
This Abington "Mini Grand
Challenge" outdoor robot challenge was designed to be very difficult. The
purpose of this challenge, much like the DARPA Grand Challenge, is to promote
advances in robot technology, robotics education, and creative thinking.
We do not anticipate that any robot will be able to successfully complete every
phase of the challenge -- but it is possible. The task cannot be solved
completely using only GPS sensors nor can it be solved completely using only a
vision system. Our goal here is to encourage participation in an advanced
robot task without the need to spend potentially hundreds of thousands or perhaps
many millions of dollars (as is the case for the DARPA Grand Challenge) . A
robot platform can be constructed for as little as several hundred dollars -- and lots of
The context of the
Abington Mini Grand Challenge is a robot navigating in a suburban
space -- not a desert. These urban and suburban venues contain existing
roads and paths (sometimes blocked by orange cones), small open areas,
buildings, and people. Unlike the DARPA urban challenge, there Mini Grand
Challenge robots will not be interacting with other vehicles or observing
traffic signals. However, the Mini Grand challenge does require spectator
interaction, which the DARPA challenge does not.
The Abington contest
requires interaction with humans. Truly intelligent robots of the future
should be able to navigate in areas inhabited by humans, and be capable of
safely interacting with human beings.
The 1-gallon of water
payload requirement is to emphasis the utility of future robots. Robots that are truly useful should be able to transport goods, materials, supplies
(such as water),
humans. This 1-gallon water payload also eliminates very small robots that
are not capable of transporting much in the way of a useful payload.
One of the recent
technical advances that makes this contest approachable is the availability of
low-cost vision systems, both at the hardware and software level.
Inexpensive cameras (for less than $50) can be coupled with
commercially-available and open-source image processing tools (examples include
MATLAB, Labview, OpenCV, CMUcam, etc.) and low-cost GPS
devices to begin to tackle
this type of problem (it still will not be easy, but you will learn a lot.)
This approach encourages the rapid prototyping of innovative algorithms using
off-the-shelf components. Of course, there are those who like to fashion
solutions from scratch -- that is OK too. Diversity is a good thing.
Due to time
limitations and the difficulty of the task, we expect only a handful of robots
to participate during the first few years of this contest -- but that is ok! Our goal is to move forward
with the contest, evaluate the results, and learn how to improve the contest for
the future. We expect the participation to grow each year.
The contest developers
will gladly consider any minor rule changes or adaptations that will allow the
participation of innovative technology that is consistent with the overall goals
of the contest event. Robots that are interesting, but do not directly
solve the Mini Grand Challenge, are welcome as exhibitions.
Each year, monarch
butterflies are capable of navigating autonomously from areas such as Abington,
PA (and other northern locations) and traveling by air over a thousand miles to
Mexico. All we are asking is that a robot move less than one half of a
mile within a campus setting along paths and across a field. Again, it is
not that easy.
1. Who can
participate in the Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge?
The Penn State Abington
Mini Grand Challenge is open to anyone -- K-8, high school, college, adult,
professional, home schooled, and other. A robot team may be sponsored by any
school or organization or a robot team may work independently of any school or
organization. There is no registration fee. Participating teams are
not required to submit any design plans, formal reports, or software
listings, but we hope that the participants will be willing to share and discuss
ideas informally during the event.
2. What is the
parts list for the blue "Powerwheels" robot car pictured in this website?
This robot car depicted
in this webpage was constructed primarily by freshman and sophomore engineering,
computer science, and IST students at Penn State Abington during the spring of
2004 into 2005 (with some help from the instructor). The robot is based on a commercially available Power Wheels (tm)
battery-powered car that has been modified for computer control. We used
a bicycle gear and a chain connected to a servo motor for steering control, and
utilized an electronic speed controller for control of the motors. We ultimately
used a 6-volt battery to provide power to the servo motor and wheels, and a
12-volt battery with an inverter to supply power to the laptop, speakers, etc. In our
experiments, we used a HandyBoard to control both the steering and the wheel
motors (later replaced with a Pontech SV203).
It is not perfect, but it works (most of the time).
Basically, any standard microcontroller, PDA, or laptop that can control servo motors
can control this vehicle. The other sensors (navigation, vision, obstacle
avoidance) are up to you. It is not necessary that you use this robot
the Mini Grand Challenge, but it is an example of a low-cost solution that would
be suitable. We can provide more information upon request. (It is
considerably less expensive than some of the multi-million dollar DARPA Grand
Here is the parts
list for the Penn State Abington robot car pictured above:
(1) Fisher Price Power Wheels
(tm) – Jeep Wrangler Model #78537 with 12V NiMH battery – $229.00
(Note: we have had good results with a F-150 Powerwheels vehicle $150 also)
(1) 6V Power Wheels Battery
NiMH (optional) – $40.00 + $25 for charger
(1) HiTech HS-805BB 343 oz-in
servo - $50.00
(1) Duratrax MOSFET
Electronic Speed Controller DTXM1050 (no longer available)
Equivalent – DuraTrax IntelliSpeed Auto-Sport Forward/Reverse ESC; $38
each; (we have not tried this
23-tooth bicycle gear (on
servo); 54-tooth bicycle gear (on steering wheel); and a bicycle chain
Pontech SV203 microcontroller
($50); however, any microcontroller (Basic Stamp, PIC controller, Handy Board,
etc,) that controls a servo will suffice
Aluminum sheets, plates,
screws, miscellaneous hardware NOTE: DO NOT attempt any modifications to any vehicles unless
supervised by individuals knowledgeable in basic electricity, electronics and
The Penn State Abington robot
also uses a Garmin eTrex GPS (with serial cable; ~$100), inexpensive USB camera
($50), and MATLAB (with Image Processing Toolbox). These components are not
required for other participants.
3. What is the DARPA
The DARPA (Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency) Grand Challenge is a USA government-sponsored robot
challenge to encourage advancements in autonomous robot technology and research.
In 2004 and 2005 the goal was to design a robot to drive approximately 200 miles across the desert from the Los Angeles, California area
to the Las Vegas, Nevada area. The contest was first offered in 2004
and the first prize was $1 million. No robot was capable of traveling more
than 7 miles or so without experiencing some type of breakdown or failure in
2004. The prize for the October 2005 contest was $2 million, and several
robots completed the task successfully. In 2006, the DARPA Grand Challenge
required robots to navigate autonomously in an urban environment. Check the
DARPA website for more
4. How much access to the contest paths do
participants have prior to the Abington Mini Grand Challenge contest?
The intention is that there would
be an opportunity to test the robot throughout limited "portions" of the defined course
prior to the contest. The rules for the 2007 challenge stipulate access to no
more than 25% of the contest path. For example, some participants may need to calibrate
vision, or test the robot traction on a hill, etc. However, it is not permitted to
"walk through" with the robot over the entire course with the intention of
calibrating any type of dead-reckoning approach or any other technology.
It would also not be permitted to have a human walk through the entire course
collecting GPS data or taking video through to be later used by the robot.
Basically, if you need to walk with (or without) the robot through the entire
course, then this defeats the purpose of designing an autonomous robot to
complete the task. If participants have any questions about these issues,
please contact the organizers for clarification.
5. What GPS data will be available to the
contestants and in what format?
I plan to email the text GPS coordinates (in simple ASCII
text format) of the 6 waypoint GPS coordinates (waypoints) to the
registered participants 24 hours prior to the contest. This is a total of 6 GPS
coordinates. The GPS location of the start point will not be
available prior to the contest. The exact starting position on the path
will be disclosed at the start of the contest. There is no other GPS data supplied for this contest. I
am not planning to post any detailed diagram or picture of the planned route
other than just supply the GPS waypoint coordinates. The diagram on the website
is an abstract drawing only and does not reflect the actual course layout.
It is really up to the contestants as to how much prep time they need on the
course before the contest (see questions and answer #4 above).
The format of the text GPS data will be latitude (DD MM.MMM)
and longitude (DDD MM.MMM) format. The GPS data will be recorded with an
inexpensive Garmin eTrex handheld GPS unit and reflect the tolerances of these
devices (+/- 30 feet or so).
Here is an example set of data (a total of 6 GPS data points
will be provided; one set of coordinates per line)
latitude N 40 07.344 longitude W 075 06.640
Waypoint #2 ...
Waypoint #3 ...
Waypoint #4 ...
Waypoint #5 ...
Waypoint #6 ..
The motivation here is to keep the logistics of the robot
competition data as simple as possible, maintain a challenging contest with an urban
theme, make the contest spectator-friendly, and promote participation.
6. How will the robots be judged in the
category of spectator interaction and robot "personality"?
Robots are expected to entertain
or interact with spectators during the entire duration of the contest run.
Of course, interaction and personality can be subjective quantities to evaluate.
However, there will be some guidelines to .help us judge the level of
interaction. For example, the simplest forms of personality will be robots
that play music or play recorded material, such as jokes, or recorded educational
material. Somewhat more advanced robots might make announcements of their
status and perhaps tell the audience when the robot has achieved certain goals.
These comments are more context dependent. More advanced interactions might
include identifying people, objects or features during the course, or responding
to audience/spectator inputs. Alternatively, visual communication could be
used instead of, or along with, audio. It is your choice -- be creative.
Robot communication with spectators should not involve or impact navigation in
any way. For example, a robot should not ask the spectators which way it
should turn to successfully navigate.
The general criteria for judging robot-spectator interactions
at this point will be: 1) How audible is any sound generated by the robot (we
are looking for loud robots); or how noticeable is the visual communication;
2) How context dependent and rich is the interaction (for example one-way versus
two-way communication, etc.); 3) overall popularity of the robot personality
based on spectator feedback; 4) duration of robot interaction throughout the
course of the robot match.
Overall, the personality and spectator interaction is a very
challenging technology to achieve, and there always will exist some element of
subjectivity. While we expect some simple approaches in the first few
contests, it is expected to grow in sophistication and creativity. It
should be fun, at any rate.
7. Is it necessary to use GPS in this contest?
Because the robot start position
in on a paved path segment, and because the first phase of the contest requires
the robot to remain on the paved path (as designated by the orange cones), it is
not absolutely necessary to utilize GPS signals during this phase of the
contest. Some contestants may utilize GPS technology during this phase to
generate meaningful voice announcements. For example, a robot could
announce when it arrives at a designated waypoint, or a robot could announce its
distance from a designated waypoint. It is also possible to "fuse" GPS
data with other sensor data to achieve navigation. The decision to use
GPS, and at what level to use GPS, is at the discretion of the robot
designer. It is not permitted to map out the entire course with GPS data
prior to the contest (see rules). Also, GPS signals may not be a
accessible throughout the entire robot course.
8. What outdoor
competitions are similar to the Abington Mini Grand Challenge?
At the high end, there is the
DARPA robot challenge, but there are also outdoor robot contests which are more
accessible to students, researchers, and hobbyists. The Seattle Robotics Society
offers a Robo-Magellan
outdoor robot contest each year. This contest does not specifically
include path following, but it does include outdoor robot navigation using GPS
waypoints. Orange cones are used for goals. I do not believe there
is a human-robot interaction component. It appears to be an
There are several universities that host outdoor robot contests using paths that
are delimited by white lines or stripes and other markers. One good source of
information regarding robot competitions of all types (outdoor, aerial,
underwater, etc) is the Robot Contest FAQ
maintained by Steve Rainwater.
Two of the features that makes
the Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge unique is the requirements for
human interaction/entertainment and the availability of low-cost robot
9. Are there any new changes to the 2011 Mini
Grand Challenge compared to prior contests?
There are no major changes to the
2011 contest. However, it is now specified in 2011 contest that the
robot must stop within 2ft and 6ft of an obstacle (such as a human) as the robot
travels along path between waypoints 1 and 5.. That is, when the
robot stops, it should be at least 2 feet away from the obstacle and no more
than 6 feet from the obstacle, We also suggest (but do not require) that the
robot indicate (for example, audible signal, etc) that it is stopping for
a detected obstacle. If the robot moves within 2 feet of the obstacle
before stopping, there will be no points awarded for the obstacle event.
If the robot collides with the object (which may be a human), there will be an
additional 10 point penalty and it is possible the robot run will be terminated
if it poses any danger - as determined by the judges. It will not be
permissible to redo the run if the robot is disqualified because of a collision,
but the robot may qualify for additional runs if the robot is deemed safe by the
judges. All judges' decisions are final.
Here are some rule clarifications (made in 2007): 1) access to
the contest course is limited to 25% of the total course. Robots may not be
"walked" through the entire course layout, nor can a human walk through the
entire course collecting data to be used by the robot; 2) only the 6 waypoint
GPS coordinates will be provided prior to the contest corresponding to the 6
waypoints, but not the start location. All robots will start in the same
general area, but the exact start location for each robot will be disclosed at
the contest start time; 3) clarification has been made concerning the second run
if time permits. The 6 waypoints will remain the same for the second run,
but the path and starting point may be changed; 4) robots will be penalized for
contact with the orange cones (any contact which alters the position of the
cones). 5) The minimum robot speed has been reduced to 1mph (from 1.5 mph)
and a penalty has been described for robots which move less than 0.5 mph for 10
Basically, any robot which was
operational in the 2005 to 2010 contests should be operational in the 2011
contest. Contact organizers if there are any questions.