Engineering group competes on campus

The Oakland Robotics Association concluded their run Monday in the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition on campus that took place June 5-8.

Their vehicle, dubbed the “X-Man Moonwalker,” has changed considerably, with a sleek black and silver case bearing the OU logo now covering the circuit boards.     

Other vehicles at the competition ran the gamut of designs and materials. Vehicles resembling an ATV, a lunar rover, a snake head and a forklift were roaming the tent during preparations for qualification trials.     

The team from Michigan Technological University that created a chrome-colored robot named “BAMF” stopped to admire the Moonwalker’s design. One of the BAMF team members asked ORA where it had gotten omni-directional wheels.

On the day of the competition, ORA said that that Moonwalker did decent on one of its heats of the GPS course, hitting four of the nine GPS waypoints.

For the obstacle course, the vehicle didn’t do as well. It was raining for part of the day of the competition, making the grass slick and visibility poor.     

According to group member Pavan Vempaty, the rain interfered with their camera’s detection of the white lines that defined the course.

While preparing for the Moonwalker to run its last heat of the GPS course, ORA was surprised when the robot suddenly stopped moving.

Running on no sleep, ORA President Micho Radovnikovich worked desperately on the robot’s touch screen to try and get it running again.

The Aerial Systems Club is in the final stages of testing and preparing for an upcoming competition where they managed to take third place and a prize of $3,800 last year with their quadrotor.

This year, the members said they hope to outdo themselves with an improved quadrotor.     

The competition requires that the vehicles navigate GPS waypoints without any human interaction.     

The quadrotor, which looks like a pair of intersecting sticks with vertical propellers at each end, hovers from checkpoint to checkpoint.

According to the Hong Yang, who worked on maintaining the balance of the quadrotor, each propeller motor has a different speed, which is controlled by the Proportional Integral Differential module, which rests in the center of the quadrotor.     

Belal Sababah, who worked on the PID module of the quadrotor, explained why they decided to choose the unconventional model of the quadrotor while nearly all of the other teams in the competition used pre-fabricated model planes.

“First, it was out of research interest,” Sababah said.

He said that they were more interested in learning how to make the quadrotor work from an engineering standpoint.

“Second, it’s a good way to get more people involved,” Sababah said.

It seems to have helped as well, since the club now has 12 members, compared to last year’s ASC team of four people.

Yang said that the quadrotor greatly impressed the judges at last year’s competition.     “They practically begged us to come back,” he said.     

Yang said that the biggest differences between last years and this year’s quadrotor are that now it’s more modular, that is it’s easier to repair if one part of it breaks. Also, this year the team has working GPS navigation.     

Keith Jones, who worked on the robot’s navigation, said that they use a Google Earth image and compare it to a picture taken by the quadrotor’s onboard camera takes to determine whether it’s in the right place.  

In addition to GPS, two cameras and a pressure sensor, the quadrotor has a sonar range finder to tell it when it is close to the ground so it can make smooth landings.

ASC estimated the total cost of this year’s quadrotor to be around $3,000.

Yang said that the first test flight went great, and they’re optimistic going into the competition.     

Another OU engineering group, Society of Automotive Engineers, concluded their competition earlier last month. They took 69th place out of a group of 123 entries.

SAE team member Kirk McGuire said that they’re happy, but not satisfied.

He said that the SAE team is already up and running on next year’s design.

“If they don’t place in the top 20 next year, I will be shocked,” McGuire said.