I’m currently in my last year of University and one of the courses I’m required to take is called Technical Report. The basis of this course is to create a project, document everything, create logs, presentations, and finally a professional report on the project at the end. For awhile now I have had the idea of entering SparkFun’s Autonomous Vehicle Challenge but didn’t really have the time away from school to take on the project. When I was telling a friend the idea of entering, he suggested I try to make the Challenge my TR Project. Well my professors actually loved the idea, and so began this project. An added benefit is they would be able to fund a few things, at the expense of having to leave the things they buy with the school.
We began the project in January and the date for the Competition is June 8th. I’m still currently planning on going, but I’m in the middle of a busy time so its still up in the air. Like most of my projects it will be using Arduino for the microcontroller. GPS and a compass for navigation, and a sonar sensor for obstacle avoidance. Since there is such a short time frame, the system will be overly simple in design. Our project will continue after the competition takes place, and will be implementing an embedded system that will allow coordinates to be programmed on the car, in sort of a “set and go” system.
This is the car we’re starting with, at first we were using an old beaten up chassis, but the school said they would purchase one. Its good and bad since I will have to give it back when I’m finished with the project. At least we have a solid frame and a fast vehicle for the competition. Its an Axial EXO Terra Buggy. We chose this chassis because its one of the few that has a frame system that we can mount all of our stuff internally and not worry about smashing it off in the event of some sort of crash. Also, it looks cool.
We’re still in the prototyping stage of the build, trying to get all the systems to work together, so its pretty losely mounted on the chassis for testing. I’m still waiting for a few sensors from SparkFun, one being a tilt compensating compass since I had no idea how sensitive the non tilt compensating compass is. Any tiny bit of leaning of the car causes a change in direction which throws it right off. This project will be updated constantly when I actually work on it. I tend to move around from project to project.