SOUTHFIELD — Lawrence Technological University’s robot, vuLTUre2, finished fifth in the Auto-Nav Challenge, the main event at the 20th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition held at Oakland University June 8-11.

Forty-seven teams from around the country and as far away as India and Japan entered the prestigious competition, although only 20 qualified for the Auto-Nav Challenge.

The fifth-place finish earned LTU a $2,000 prize, and the team picked up a $1,000 prize for finishing fourth in the Joint Architecture for Unmanned Systems (JAUS) competition.

IGVC promotes the development of automated and intelligent vehicles that can have both civilian and military applications. Sponsors include the Joint Project Office for Robotic Systems of the United States Army, the Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise of the Department of Defense, the Army’s Tank-Automotive Research and Development Command, the Michigan  chapter of the National Defense Industrial Association, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (both the foundation and the Great Lakes chapter), and Women in Defense. Corporate sponsors include Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Continental and Takata.

Lawrence Tech’s robot achieved these results with computer stereo vision while most of the other teams were using laser scanners and computer vision together. The laser scanners are much more expensive, use much more energy, and could be a health threat, according to Lawrence Tech Professor CJ Chung, who was the team’s faculty adviser.

“Our result could be considered historic since we relied solely on stereo vision,” Chung said. “We are proud of our students who devoted their talent and time.”

Lawrence Tech students studying computer science, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering worked on the vuLTUre2. Some team members also had to adjust their schedules for full-time jobs. The software team leader, Ryan Matthews, works full-time as a software engineer at Barracuda Networks and expects to complete his bachelor’s degree in computer science next year.

“Participating in IGVC has helped me the most in terms of preparing myself for a job. It poses a wide variety of challenges such as project management, problem solving, teamwork, and time management,” Matthews said.

Matthews said of Chung’s guidance: “CJ consistently pushes us to come up with new ways to solve problems (and) encourages us to explore new technologies to solve the problems we are presented with,” he said.

Several former Lawrence Tech IGVC competitors attended this year’s IGVC, including Maurice Tedder (2003-05), Nate Johnson (2006), Andrey Chernolutskiy (2004), Jeremy Gray (2007-08), and Brace Stout (2006-11), who donated more than $5,000 in materials to construct the current robot.

Lawrence Tech also staged the 13th annual Robofest Invitational at the IGVC.


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