DARPA Robotics Challenge Results

DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC)
The debris removal challenge (Source: DARPA)

In December I wrote about the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) and its relevance to ITGS, and gave some ideas for using it in classroom activities. The challenge was held over two days and involved 15 robots completing a series of difficult tasks likely to be faced in rescue situations such as collapsed buildings or nuclear disasters. You can read more about the challenges in my previous post.

The two day trials were very interesting and many of the robots, all humanoids, did extremely well. Even basic tasks such as standing freely, walking, and balancing have traditionally been difficult for robots, but these entries managed to (generally) master these tasks and take technology to a new level, clambering over rubble, climbing ladders in various events, and even driving a vehicle.

DARPA Robotic Challenge
The debris removal challenge (Source: DARPA)

There is a lot of material and coverage available of the events online – below are some of the best examples and sources. If students completed the activities in my previous post and thought about the challenges and possible technical solutions, these videos should help them evaluate how right or wrong they were. I won’t spoil the results right now (see the bottom of this post for the eventual winner, if you don’t already know).

First up, DARPA have excellent 2-3 minute wrap-up videos summarizing each of the two days of trials:

ComputerWorld also has a nice summary video covering the various challenges and related robotic events at the DRC:

If you have a bit (well, quite a lot) more time, DARPA has full videos of each of the eight challenges in the DRC. These are complete and unedited archives of the live feeds, covering everything from setting up to the actual trial, so they require some skipping through to find the interesting parts (each video is around 8 hours long!). To simplify logistics the robots were divided into two groups – Blue and Red – which is why you see two videos for each challenge.

Finally, if you (still) don’t know the results of the DRC, stop reading now: the winner is covered by this BBC article and this IEEE Spectrum article (which contains a detailed breakdown of the points each robot earned), while this article from MIT Technology Review has a good write-up of the event with photographs.The DARPA Robotics Challenge, combined with the previous DARPA Grand Challenges, make great examples for teaching ITGS students about the difficulties and the potential of robotics in the real world.

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