My lovely wife and I went to the Autonomous Vehicle Competition, sponsored by Spark fun electronics. What a great event. It reminded me a lot of when I went to Balls at the black rock desert. There was the same level of geek, the same kind of support for the novice, and the same type of acceptance. Everyone who attended understood what they were there for, and how difficult the tasks at hand were to accomplish. At Balls the goal was to safely fly a high power rocked with a home made motor and recover the vehicle in “ready to fly” condition. At the AVC the goal is just as ambitious. You build a vehicle, either ground or air, then it must navigate an obstacle course. The real trick here is that the vehicle must find its own way. That is where the autonomous comes in. Press the go button and the race is on. This is especially exciting with the aerial vehicles. Also more of a challenge due to the fact that the course is over water.
This year I went to spectate, however, I have a feeling that next year I will end up participating. I was pretty geeked up about the whole thing. The courses looked pretty challenging. For the land vehicles a large rectangle laid out in a parking lot, with obstacles and ramps to navigate around or over. Usually five vehicles would start once the signal was said to go. Generally only one of the five even finished the race. The others would either run into the fence, or get lost turning in circles or wandering off until they were chased down and turned off. Can’t think of a more geeky form of exercise than jogging after an obstinate robot. For the aerial vehicles they had to take off and head out to a little peninsula about a hundred yards across a lake, then turn around and fly back and land with in the roped off beach area. For extra points the vehicle could drop a tennis ball onto the peninsula. For even more points the vehicle could fly through a couple of poles set up with a rope strung between them. Yes, we saw several successful runs and even a few ball drops. Amazing.
My main goal in attending this event was to be inspired, and to see if I was up to the challenge for next year. Size up the competition, and all that. And inspired I was. I guess there is really no end of hobbies. The older I get the more I want to try out new and challenging things, especially if they involve something strange, dangerous, electronic, mechanical, and futuristic.
I may start a new page just for this next project.