the School of Computer Science invites all members of the
Carnegie Mellon community to participate in the annual "Mobot
Slalom Race". Participants race the autonomous
vehicles ("MObile roBOTs") that they have built
along a slalom-type course on the paved walk in front of Wean
Hall. The course consists of a series of gates connected by a
wavy, painted stripe. Vehicles are judged on their ability to
navigate sequentially through the gates.
competition is sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon School of
Computer Science, Harris Corporation, Lockheed Martin, RedZone
Robotics and Schlumberger.
I built a mobot and entered it in the competition. I
named my mobot "Marvin" in honor of the saturnine
robot from the novels of Douglas Adams. Marvin finished
the competition in first place, traversing nine gates in a
time of 3:05:98. This won me the grand prize of 1000
A large crowd lines the walk to watch the 1999 mobot
I calibrate my mobot
before letting it loose at the start gate.
be entering the competition again this April with a new and improved
mobot. Since I can't give away "trade secrets" to my
competitors, I can't reveal my mobot design here, but I can
show you the next-generation mobot design I described in my
tongue-in-cheek prize acceptance speech:
a next-generation mobot.
behind this mobot is its hovering capability. Since it
always stays a few inches above the ground, it won't run into
problems when it encounters bumps, cracks, hills, or debris.
has bottom thrusters for lift and side thrusters to navigate
in multiple directions.
I: Deployment of
slave probe squadron.
thing that the mobot does is deploy a small fleet of probe
droids. The probes are launched in many directions with
powerful rocket engines. The probes contain digital
cameras, image processing circuitry, differential GPS position
tracking units, inclinometers, and radio transmitters.
II: Data collection
probes reach a sufficient height, they take a series of
digital photographs from different angles. Along with
each photograph, altitude and angle information are measured
data has been collected, information is sorted and transmitted
back to the mobot "mothership" via a radio signal.
The probe rocket then self-destructs in a fiery ball of flame.
III: Data processing.
central computer on the mobot mothership analyses the vast
collection of data received from the probe droids. It
then uses image processing algorithms and statistical modeling
techniques to generate a complex map of the course layout,
accurate to the finest detail.
IV: Course navigation.
once the map is generated, the mobot has no problem using it
to navigate through the course rapidly and with extreme
accuracy. Victory is virtually guaranteed.