EVENT: Darpa Robotics Challenge with Polaris
It is no joke to some that robots are slowly starting to take over the world. Robots are used every day, whether it’s machines sorting the mail or on the production line building ATVs. Polaris is a company that produces a high volume of recreational vehicles, and there is no doubt that they have robots piecing together parts in their manufacturing facilities. So it makes sense that they would sponsor the DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) Robotics Challenge.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT
Teams from the robotics industry gathered in Pomona, California, this summer for a two-day competition to test their robots’ abilities over eight difficult tasks relevant to disaster response, walking through rubble, climbing stairs, turning valves and more. To start their run, each robot is required to drive a Polaris Ranger through DARPA’s obstacle course. Driving down the start of the obstacle course consists of a 100-yard stretch with K-rails strategically placed for the robots to maneuver around, then they would get lifted out of the Polaris and start the remainder of the course on their own power.
Each team is given a set amount of time to provide the robot with commands in order to maneuver around the course. The competitors are not allowed to see the course prior to the competition, so they are given a “black-out period” to measure out everything the robot has to do before they go through the obstacles. Some robots are semi-autonomous, which means they’re controlled by its programming. Each robotics team owns and modifies their Polaris Ranger to suit their robots. Removing the roll cage and seats or modifying the controls is common to fit the robot into the UTV. Some robots can climb in and out of their Ranger without assistance, but other teams have to lower their humanistic robots into the UTV. We didn’t get to witness any crashes with the robots driving the Polaris Rangers, but we did see a few robots fall/ tip over while trying to shut off valves and traverse over the rubble. When the robots fell over, they were put on a gurney and taken out of the competition.
Polaris sponsors the teams and helps with any needed repairs on their Rangers throughout the competition. At this year’s DARPA competition, team Kaist of Daejeon, Republic of Korea, won first place and the $2 million in prize money with their robot DRC-Hubo. The second-place team was IHMC Robotics of Pensacola, Florida, collecting $1 million with their robot Running Man. The thirdplace finisher was Tartan Rescue from Pittsburgh and their robot CHIMP, earning $500,000 in prize money. To learn more about the DARPA robotics event, visit www.therobotics challenge.org. For more info on Polaris, visit www.polaris.com.