California State University, Northridge engineering students took the second-place Grand Award at the International Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC), held in June in Michigan.
CSUN’s team of mechanical, electrical and computer science engineering students came in second behind a group from Oakland University in Michigan and ahead of a team from Hosei University in Japan in the competition that tests the students’ ability to design and assemble a fully autonomous, unmanned ground vehicle — a mobile robot — that can navigate an obstacle course and perform assigned tasks.
Mechanical engineering professor C.T. Lin, who served as the team’s advisor, said the win was well deserved. He noted that in addition to regular team meetings, the students met for at least four hours every Sunday throughout the year to get their vehicle, dubbed “VADER,” ready for the competition.
“After final exams and commencement, in the weeks before the competition, there were team members who devoted themselves to fine-tuning the vision and motion systems of the robot on a daily basis to make sure VADER would perform effectively and smoothly at the competition,” Lin said. “This really showed their commitment to this project.”
The competition includes three major challenges: the true autonomy of the vehicles, the ability to navigate an obstacle course and their design.
The CSUN students’ robot took first in the design challenge and third in the autonomous-navigation challenge and the joint architecture for unmanned systems challenge.
This is the ninth year that CSUN has taken part in the competition sponsored by the military as well as several industry leaders. For the past four years, CSUN’s mobile robots — including Raven in 2011, Raven 2.0 in 2012 and Scorpion in 2013 — have captured either first or second place in the overall Grand Awards.
“We have very talented students, and they are a force to be reckoned with at this competition,” Lin said.
This year’s winning team consisted of mechanical engineering students Daniel Valenzuela, Melissa Flores, Daniel Kim, Richard Gillberg, Margaret Goldman, Wonkyu Whan, Joseph Prince, Jesse Combs, Torrence Pineau, Denny Farias, William Pangestu, Jesse Campos, Chris Smith and Eric Espiritu; and electrical and computer engineering students Abou-Baker Kadmiry, Riel Palis, Qusai Qaneetah, Hassib Abi Rafeh, Ruben Berumen and Amandeep Brar.
Lin said this year’s competition included some unexpected drama when the judges miscalculated the combined scores from all three challenges and presented the first-place Grand Award to the CSUN VADER team. Thirty minutes later, after the team celebrated and posed with the first-place trophy, the head judge informed the team of the mistake.
“The catch was that the IGVC official photos showed that the VADER team was awarded with the overall first-place Grand Award trophy,” Lin said. “In any case, the VADER team, in my mind, is one of the two best CSUN teams in the nine-year history of CSUN’s participation in this international competition.”