Stanford Racing's car, Stanley, at Darpa Grand Challenge, Oct 2005
Back when my daughter was in elementary school, I heard about the Darpa Grand Challenge, which was a contest to build and race autonomously-driven vehicles for a $1,000,000 prize. So, I made plans for she and I to drive out into the desert near Barstow, CA, and watch the first race. Even though none of the teams claimed the prize that year (or even came close), it was a wonderful spectacle watching some insanely smart people having a great time building robotic cars and trucks and sending them off to race around the desert following an invisible path marked off by GPS coordinates. And, 18 months later, in 2005, we were back to watch the 2nd race at Primm, NV and saw the Stanford Racing's vehicle, Stanley (photo above), take first place and walk away with the $2,000,000 prize.
Me and my daughter visiting Team CajunBot at Darpa Grand Challenge, Oct 2005
So, every year for the past few years I've read about Sparkfun's, smaller scale Autonomous Vehicle Competition and thought about entering as a father/daughter team. But, lack of time and fear of failure kept us from entering. But, no more! This year we've signed up and managed to snag one of 50 the entry slots before they all disappeared. So, now we're on the hook. I went looking around for information about how contestants from prior years went about building their vehicles and found a few brave enough to pass on very useful insights. So, interest of sharing, I thought I should chronicle our progress and failures to that others might benefit from my work, too. I also figured it might help keep me on task if I had to write about it. So, as work progresses, we'll add more and more links to the section below: