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DC/MD/VA Robotics and Automation Meetup Group Message Board › Seeking software teammates for the DARPA Robotics Challenge

Seeking software teammates for the DARPA Robotics Challenge

Erica
eschulma
Chevy Chase, MD
Post #: 6
I am looking for software teammates to participate in DARPA's new robotics challenge.

DARPA has set a robotics challenge this year with the goal of providing humanitarian disaster relief and related operations. For some disasters humans can't get into a dangerous environment in time to prevent a cascade of bad effects. To fix this, DARPA is looking for a robot system that can work in a human environment and use human compatible tools. Right now, robots aren't there yet.

Normally, a project like this would require a great deal of hardware investment and thus not suitable for hacker participation. However, DARPA has done something very unusual here. They are offering slots to software teams who will be given free cloud access with a very sophisticated simulator, environment, and virtual robot. Getting a slot is fairly straightforward and I believe I can obtain one, if others would like to work on this with me!

The first stage of the challenge is 9 months long ending with a virtual competition. Software teams who place well (top 6 out of up to 112) will receive a few hundred K for development and be loaned a physical robot to use. After that would be challenges in the real world, with the ultimate winner taking home $2M. That would be an extremely long shot, but in the meantime we would have a chance to use the latest tools while working on the cutting edge of robotics.

The government-furnished robot will be a variation of Boston Dynamic's PETMAN (see YouTube for some amazing stuff there). Although DARPA is encouraging hardware teams to enter as well, it is pretty clear that software is the primary need. The robot will be asked to do some difficult tasks under conditions with very limited bandwidth. In other words, you can't just move it around all the time with a joystick. The goal is "supervised autonomy" where a human operator issues high-level commands to the robot. Implementation details are up to us and "out of the box" thinking is requested (and will clearly be needed to succeed).

The tasks include:

1. Drive a utility vehicle at the site.
2. Travel dismounted across rubble.
3. Remove debris blocking an entryway.
4. Open a door and enter a building.
5. Climb an industrial ladder and traverse an industrial walkway.
6. Use a tool to break through a concrete panel.
7. Locate and close a valve near a leaking pipe.
8. Replace a component such as a cooling pump.

These are all hard challenges, but possible (I think; PETMAN is pretty sophisticated as far as stability etc.) and any software team that could successfully tackle them would certainly advance the state of robotics. Wouldn't hurt the résumé either.

I am looking for fellow software developers who are interested in participating. The only requirement is that you be an experienced software developer who is willing to put in a few hours a week...other than that, no expertise in robotics is needed.

The official kickoff date is October, however, we could get started on some things now. The basic robot is known (PETMAN) as is the basic simulator (Gazebo), and APIs from the Robot Operating System (ROS) will be used.

For more details on the challenge, please see:

http://www.darpa.mil/Our_Work/TTO/Programs/DARPA_Robotics_Challenge.aspx­

On the right side are links to Video of the Presenter's Day and the official BAA. Although we will not be responding to the BAA, it has all the details. The path I've outlined here is Track C in the BAA.

I will be happy to answer any questions about this. I will be at the meetup on Saturday. I will also be at HacDC's Microcontroller Monday on the 14th, and NOVA Makers Eagle'Up tonight (both on Meetup). Brief background on me, I have a Ph.D. in experimental physics and currently run a successful software company, and have moderate familiarity with ROS and building small-scale robots.

Best wishes,
Erica
ens AT ix.netcom.com
Dan S.
user 6766153
Alexandria, VA
Post #: 5
Hi Erica,

I would love to join.

Just an fyi, my team placed in the top 3 at the Microsoft@Home competition and I'll be flying to San Mateo next weekend to accept the prize on behalf of the team. I'll talk about it at the meeting.

Dan.
Ted M.
tmarkson
Reston, VA
Post #: 1
Erica, Great to talk and meet with you last night at the Nova Labs Eagle'Up session.

Re: Robotics challenge, as I mentioned my skills are in hardware, python, and management. I'd covet being part of the group and doing whatever I can to help/support the team.

Ted
John P.
user 9563991
Aldie, VA
Post #: 1
This sounds like a great opportunity! How can I get involved in this? I'd like to help out any way that I can!

-John
Erica
eschulma
Chevy Chase, MD
Post #: 8
John, I have e-mail addresses for the previous two commenters, but not yours, so as a heads-up I sent you a private message through Meetup. Please e-mail me at ens AT ix.netcom.com --thanks!
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