“˜Gator’ on the Loose: Olin College and Draper Laboratory Collaborate to Create Self-Driving John Deere XUV
Five seniors from Olin College have been working with Draper Laboratory for the past nine months to continue a collaboration to build a capable, autonomous off-road vehicle. The partnership, enabled via the Senior Capstone Program for Engineering program at Olin, began last year with Draper’s first SCOPE sponsorship. This year’s team has enhanced the John Deere Gator XUV that the previous year’s team made capable of being controlled by a computer, to drive itself through complex environments that require the vehicle to detect paths, and identify and avoid obstacles.
Needham, MA (PRWEB) May 05, 2011
Over the past nine months, through Olin’s Senior Capstone Program for Engineering (SCOPE) program Draper Laboratory and Olin College have successfully continued their collaboration to build a capable, autonomous off-road vehicle. This partnership began last year when Draper Laboratory sponsored its first SCOPE project and charged Olin students with converting a standard John Deere Gator XUV into a robot capable of being controlled by a computer. This year, Draper’s second SCOPE sponsorship got them a new team of five Olin seniors (Nicholas Hobbs, Jacob Izraelevitz, Daniel Grieneisen, Ann Wu and Arash Ushani), who have enhanced this capable platform to command the Gator to drive itself through complex environments that require the vehicle to detect paths, and identify and avoid obstacles.
The vehicle first tackled navigation of parking lots and roads on the Olin College campus. Developing this capability required the creation of software that could enable the vehicle to navigate towards GPS waypoints while detecting and avoiding static and dynamic obstacles. Next, the Olin team took the vehicle to the forest where further development added the ability to recognize organic objects as obstacles and navigate through partially GPS-denied environments. During field testing, the vehicle has autonomously transported supplies through more than a quarter mile of densely vegetated dirt paths. Additionally, the vehicle has autonomously patrolled open field environments for extended durations.
To achieve these objectives, the Olin team has overcome challenging technical problems spanning many engineering domains, from artificial intelligence to advanced sensors and high speed computation. However, the students have not attacked these problems alone. Between their capable project partner Draper Laboratory and vehicle sponsor National Instruments, the team has had access to the tools they needed to accomplish this complicated task.
“Being a SCOPE sponsor is rewarding personally and professionally,” said Troy B. Jones, autonomous systems capability leader at Draper. “I get to work with excellent students and they provide me innovative ideas and demonstrations that our company would otherwise not have the bandwidth to pursue. Besides all that ““ it’s fun!”
The Senior Capstone Program in Engineering (SCOPE) is the culminating experience of each Olin student’s education. In this year-long course, senior students work in multi-disciplinary teams, engaging in significant real-world engineering projects for partnering corporate clients. Each team of 5-7 students, along with a faculty advisor, dedicated project space and an Olin technical expert group, works on a project of value to the sponsoring company.
Sponsor companies are industry leaders, joining Olin College as catalysts for change in engineering education. These corporate partnerships drive industry awareness that engineers of the future will be trained differently ““ and that Olin College of Engineering is leading the way toward this goal.
Olin students have strong hands-on design skills, including rapid-prototyping and user-oriented design, training in entrepreneurship, as well as teamwork and project management skills resulting from cross-disciplinary group projects which they start the day they arrive at Olin College. In the SCOPE program, seniors are grouped together in appropriate labor workforce teams to match the needs of each sponsor company’s project. Sponsor companies find that these exceptionally bright engineering students look at problems in new ways and find unexpected solutions.
About Draper Laboratory
Draper Laboratory is a not-for-profit, engineering research and development organization dedicated to solving critical national problems in security, space systems, biomedical systems and energy. Core capabilities include guidance, navigation and control; miniature low power systems; highly reliable complex systems; information and decision systems; autonomous systems; biomedical and chemical systems; and secure networks and communications.
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