Already more than a month ago, finally I've got the photo's of the RobotChallenge on my web site. The robotchallenge in Vienna is an international event where teams compete in different challenges. Chaekith Chandranna and I participated in the Parallel Slalom and Enhanced Parallalel Slalom challenges. The robotchallenge was a very nice experience. No prizes for our robot Wilson, named after the character in Cast Away and not Jenny's (our course leader) husband, however. The robot performed rather well but had difficulty with the last corner and suffered a bit from the limitation of LEGO. Finally all my youth play with LEGO game to practice :-). Once a child, always a child.
On the photos you can see some shots of us developing our LEGO vehicles in the robotics lab at DMU. As usual we working till late, or better till early with our out of hours permit. We tested the robot in the lab and it worked very well, it's too bad that it nevertheless had trouble in the real challenge. However, apart from the results the Vienna trip was a great experience.
On Friday we took the plane to Bratislava (that was cheaper), where our terrorist, Chaekith was almost sent back at the border. At the airport they picked us up with a bus so we didn't have to walk to the border control for the impressive distance of about 80 metres. I hardly took a seat. Taxi's brought us to our apartments in Vienna.
In the evening it was time to go out. Simon brought us to a nice pub with a dance floor in the basement (the brewery / der brennerei). The music was quite good there. We had some pizza and partied till around 4 AM when the pubs were closing. At 5 in the morning we usually slept. The next morning we had breakfast early and went to the Siemens buildings where the robotics challenge took place.
Several people from our course participated in different challenges. Ben won a prize in the freestyle challenge where he presented his flying miniature helicopter. He used this helicopter in his project where he had developed a control using an evolutionary computing methodology. Constans participated in more or less every other challenge. Jonathan participated in the Sumo challenge where robots had to pull each other out of the sumo area. Sometimes however it was better not to run out of the area accidentally than to really defeat your opponent. I was thinking of using a sticker for the purpose of a robot, which can never been pushed out of the area (unless someone has a build in grabber). Ian, Chaekith and I participated in the slalom challenges.
In the parallel slalom the aim was to follow a line as fast as possible. The line consisted of different tiles that were put together resulting in arcs and corners that were a difficulty to take. We had to deal with the lighting conditions in which Ians robot failed but our robot used auto-calibration and performed quite well in that sense. Since we used LEGO mindstorms we were somewhat limited by the processing speed, number of sensors and especially the low accuracy of the sensors. Our robots had difficulty at the 90 degree corner and lost the track just before the finish. What a shame. At least we know it can do it, since it performed rather well on our test track in UK even for the enhanced parallel slalom.
In the enhanced parallel slalom a tunnel a discontinuation of the track and a brick obstacle were added as extra difficulties. At our testing track our robot dealt well with these difficulties however in the real challenge it was detecting bricks everywhere for some reason and it therefore went into brick avoidance mode too often. This issue is still unresolved.
In the evening we went to a restaurant with our group from DMU. The restaurant was about five floors under the ground in a historical building. In the night it was of course time to go out and to see more of the city. With our unlimited underground pass we used this extensively and we have seen loads of the city. In the photographs you see many nice buildings. Not everyone went in the city however, some people went to the pub directly. We were lucky that our roommates opened the door in the mornings to let us in. The next morning we missed out our breakfast, that was just too early.
That they the finals were there. The dedicated robots (electronics) were performing the best since they were manufactured especially for the purpose of the challenge. We hadn't got the money for that option however. In the afternoon we went to a small island in the city where we had dinner in a Greek restaurant with all of us. We ended that day with an after party for participants where we were for a short time. After which we travelled through the city till the U-bahn closed and we were frightened that we had to walk back al the way from the south of Vienna. But luckily there were night buses which were also free with our card. When the pub was closing that night we went on in another pub that was open until late (or early).
Last day we choose to join Jenny and her husband Wilson. Wilson had lived in Vienna for some time. We saw several places of which we had seen some already. Later that day we went to a more peaceful suburb where we had a large lunch and some nice wines. We finished the day with a walk in the hills, on the photo you see me pushing the pram with Rose inside up the hill. Although the pavement was horrible Rose seemed to be able to sleep all the way. On top of the hill we came to a place where we had a nice lookout over the city. Finally we took the bus in the wrong direction which made us return late at the hotel after which we returned home.