October 26, 2007

Cleveland's other playoff team: "DEXTER" and Team Case are California Dreamin'

Members of TeamCase unload Dexter in California

Case School of Engineering's robotic car arrives in fire-ravaged Southern California to compete in semifinals of $3.5 million DARPA Urban Challenge

DEXTER, Case Western Reserve University's entry in the $3.5 million DARPA Urban Challenge robotic vehicle race, and all of its accoutrements—including the human members of Team Case—have arrived in fire-ravaged Southern California to compete in the Urban Challenge's national semifinals at the former George Air Force Base in Victorville, Calif. The National Qualifying Event (NQE) runs from Oct. 25-31, with the finals slated for Saturday, November 3.

As the team of more than 20 engineering students and faculty traveled from Los Angeles International Airport to Victorville through the San Bernardino Mountain range, they stared in awe at the smoke and flames that have been engulfing Southern California. The team itself was never threatened, but the sights and smells of the fire were everywhere.

"We can see the fires and smoke from our hotel parking lot," blogged Andy Allen, an engineering Ph.D. candidate and behavioral section tech lead for DEXTER, who then got down to the business at hand. "It has been a long road to these last two weeks, and every team member will tell you that we have come a long way. In only a year have we acquired a braindead robot, and taught it to drive to the best of our abilities. And to think we were so very excited the first time we got 'him' to drive just a straight line."

The DARPA Urban Challenge is an autonomous vehicle research and development program with the goal of developing technology that will keep soldiers off the battlefield and out of harm's way. The Urban Challenge features autonomous ground vehicles maneuvering in a mock city environment, executing simulated military supply missions while merging into moving traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding obstacles. DARPA, or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, is the research arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, and is offering $2 million for the fastest qualifying vehicle, and $1 million and $500,000 for second and third place.

This is the first-ever entry by Case Western Reserve in the popular robotic vehicle competition. "Team Case" is made up of about 30 undergraduate and graduate students and faculty from the Case School of Engineering.

"We're proud to be part of such a great event and excited about the opportunity to help create a technology that could save the lives of American men and women on the battlefield," said Wyatt Newman, professor of electrical engineering and computer science and faculty leader of Team Case. "Our competition is certainly formidable, but we believe in ourselves and believe we can place highly or even win the competition. Whatever happens, it has been a fantastic experience, and the team is thrilled to have gotten this far on our very first try."

To succeed in the Urban Challenge, a team's robots must perform like cars with drivers and safely conduct simulated battlefield supply missions on a 60-mile urban area course. They must obey traffic laws while merging into traffic, navigating traffic circles, negotiating busy intersections and avoiding obstacles in fewer than six hours.

To learn more about Team Case's progress in the DARPA Urban Challenge, you can follow the team's blog.

For more information contact Laura M. Massie, 216.368.4442.

Posted by: Kimyette Finley, October 26, 2007 10:43 AM | News Topics: Case School of Engineering, Collaborations/Partnerships, Faculty, HeadlinesMain, Provost Initiatives, Research, Students, Technology

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