Project Portfolio

Dan Maynes Aminzade


Actuated Workbench
Audience Interaction
You're in Control
Edible User Interfaces


Carnegie Mellon


Disney Imagineering


Unsafe Search
Music Visualization
Taboo Database


Pepsi Database
Love Calculator


RCA Lyra
Stone Cold


SURG Proposals
Female Pop Singers
Satan Baby
Wesley Willis



Each Spring, 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.

The competition is sponsored by the Carnegie Mellon School of Computer Science, Harris Corporation, Lockheed Martin, RedZone Robotics and Schlumberger.

Last spring 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 dollars.
A large crowd lines the walk to watch the 1999 mobot competition.

I calibrate my mobot before letting it loose at the start gate.

I'll 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:
mobot1.gif (7079 bytes)

The Hoverbot 5000,
a next-generation mobot.

The secret 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.

The mobot has bottom thrusters for lift and side thrusters to navigate in multiple directions.

mobot2.gif (6426 bytes)

Phase I: Deployment of
slave probe squadron.

The first 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.
mobot3.gif (12611 bytes)

Phase II: Data collection
and transmission.

Once the 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 and stored.

Once enough 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.

mobot4.gif (5603 bytes)

Phase III: Data processing.

The powerful 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.
mobot5.gif (5220 bytes)

Phase IV: Course navigation.

Naturally, 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.