I found out about the NASA Space Robotics Challenge back in August and, feeling like I haven’t been contributing much to the robotics world lately, decided to take a shot at it. It’s a virtual challenge, meaning the competition involves programming a simulated Valkyrie robot (Val) to accomplish a handful of tasks in the Gazebo simulator. There are well over 400 teams registered and only 20 will make it through the qualification round, so it’s highly competitive. I’m competing solo in my “spare time” against whole teams of graduate students from university robotics labs. That said, there has been a slew of competition setbacks, delays, and software issues, which may have dissuaded a good number of teams (wishful thinking). The two qualification tasks do take a significant amount of time and effort just to get up and running so you can begin working on solving them.
This first round involves
1. Using stereo-vision and/or lidar to record the sequence and positions of a serious of blinking lights on a panel, and
2. Maneuvering Val to a door, opening the door, and walking through without falling.
Per the rules in ranking the top 20, I’m dedicating most of my limited time to minimizing the time it takes Val to complete Task 2. Essentially, as long as teams have completed Task 1, the 20 fastest times on Task 2 will make up the top 20 that get to move on.