Robotics Club demonstrates autonomous vehicle on National Mall
UMass Lowell’s Robotics Club brought “Stark,” its student-designed outdoor autonomous robot, to a three-day exhibition and demonstration held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. from April 9 through 11. Prof. Fred Martin provided travel funding for the team.
The visit was part of an event organized by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) to bring the capabilities of autonomous robots to the attention of lawmakers as part of National Robotics Week.
UMass Lowell graduate student Nat Tuck and undergraduates Armand Chery Jr., Ken Cramer, Michael McGuinness, and Ian Ndicu participated. UMass Lowell was one of eight collegiate teams to exhibit a robot at the event.
The team left Lowell in the early morning of Saturday April 9, after waking up to learn that Congress had agreed on a federal budget. The National Parks Service operates the National Mall, and until the budget agreement was in place, the whole event would have been canceled.
In their haste to get on the road, the team forgot to bring a crucial component: an electronic compass required by the robot for navigational guidance.
While there in D.C., the team figured out how to transmit data from the compass built into a team member's Android phone to the robot. The solution worked, and the team was able to successfully demonstrate autonomous outdoor navigation among several waypoints whose GPS coordinates were provided.
Team member Ian Ndicu, a dual major in computer science and electrical & computer engineering, reflected, “It was great to witness the admiration and awe that the robots brought to all of the people walking by, and I really felt a sense of pride—that we are doing some pretty cool stuff here at UMass Lowell.”
Robotics Club members and Stark,
Mass Lowell’s autonomous robot platform.
(L-R): Ian Ndicu, Michael McGuinness, Nat Tuck, Armand Chery Jr., and Ken Cramer. Photograph courtesy of the AUVSI Foundation.
Teams from eight colleges and universities brought their robots to the National Mall for the event. See more pictures at a story on the AUVSI web site.