By Eric Reikowski, media relations assistant
|The ORA competes in robotics competitions nationwide, including an upcoming event on OU's campus. Above, the team from 2009-2010 is pictured.
The Oakland Robotics Association (ORA) recently made a splash by winning second place at the Mini-Grand Challenge robotics competition this spring.
Held on the campus of Pennsylvania State University-Abington, the competition involved programming a robot to follow an asphalt path without human aid. The team spent many months designing and building a robot with a vision and guidance system that would allow it to function autonomously.
“This required mounting a camera to the robot and training the computer to identify the asphalt path and detect where the turns are,” said Micho Radovnikovich, ORA president. “The computer controls the robot to navigate itself down the path. At the end of the path, the robot must drive off-road toward a specified GPS coordinate, while avoiding obstacles. For this task, the visual training changes to a different system, more able to accommodate the new scenario.”
Before the robot could direct itself, the team members had to perform various tests and procedures to develop the machine’s vision and guidance systems.
“We manually drove the robot on an asphalt path similar to what we would find in Pennsylvania,” Radovnikovich explained. “The video, along with other sensor data, was recorded and used to simulate the response of the artificial intelligence code in the computer. Once fully developed, a test phase started to see how it responds in the real world.”
To see videos of the robot (nicknamed “Beast”) in action, visit the ORA’s YouTube channel
Radovnikovich says that getting involved with the organization has many benefits that extend beyond the classroom.
“In ORA, we bring robots from the drawing board into reality, and then give the machine a life of its own through the software,” Radovnikovich explained. “This involves multi-disciplinary cooperation, and requires creative and professional ideas and implementation, which are qualities that will greatly help students when seeking employment in industry.”
However, fellow team member Kirk McGuire points out that the rewards of ORA come with great demands.
“With a student organization like this, it can be harder to get people involved because of the dedication and sacrifice required,” McGuire said. “Literally hundreds of man-hours go into building the robot, so we spend a lot of time together, away from family and other friends.”
Right now, the team is preparing for its most anticipated competition of the year – the 19th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. Set for June 3-6 on Oakland University’s campus, this event is expected to draw robotics teams from more than 50 universities across North America and the Middle East.
The ORA is funded by the Student Activities Funding Board and also enjoys the support of corporate sponsors, such as Battery Giant, Burkard Industries and Dataspeed Inc., Molex Automotive and Sankuer Composite Technologies Inc.
To learn more about the Oakland Robotics Association, view the website
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