NIARC to focus on innovation in transportation

Friday, 28 April, 2017

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The 2017 National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (NIARC) has begun in Australia and New Zealand, with 26 teams from 20 universities participating.

The event is designed to encourage learning, development and innovation among students in the field of robotics.

This year’s theme is ‘Transportation Innovation’, with students encouraged to submit innovative ideas for next-generation transportation.

“NIARC has grown tremendously in scale and popularity among top universities in Australia and New Zealand. This year, the stage is set for our young engineers to design the ‘vehicle of the future’ and push the boundaries of robotics research and development,” said Chandran Nair, vice president for Asia-Pacific, National Instruments.

Key focus areas in this next-generation transportation research include vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications and intelligent transportation system (ITS). Participants are to create an intelligent vehicle that can follow road rules and regulations, which should provide practical learning experience in engineering — specifically robotics.

Each team will be equipped with industry-leading hardware and software tools. These include the NI myRIO embedded measurement and control platform and LABVIEW robotics software suite, which have been proven to enable engineering students to design complex projects with efficiency, speed and flexibility.

Teams will be required to design an autonomous/driverless vehicle to transport a passenger around town. Using navigation, spatial awareness and strategy to achieve this task, the track will simulate traffic conditions and may include other vehicles, road blocks and speed restrictions. The task will be to pick up and transport passengers while abiding by the city’s road rules.

All teams will have to successfully complete five milestones over the course of the competition from April to August, in order to qualify for the final competition in September. Throughout these stages, they will receive guidance and technical support from their academic supervisors, trainers and NI engineers.

“We built a fully autonomous robot that could help transport medicine packages in a hospital of the future,” said Jerome Clinton Justin, team leader of 2016 winner the University of Wollongong

“A lot of thought had to be put into the design of the robot, to get it just perfect without having to complicate its path-planning ability. At the final stage, we had to iterate our design — a small change so simple that played a crucial part in our win. Ultimately, it is not about the fastest robot. The key to winning the title is the reliability of the robot, so in our 2017 campaign, we will focus on that to bring the trophy back home to UOW again.”

NIARC 2016 second placer Swinburne University of Technology is also gearing up for this year’s competition.

“The Swinburne team was especially excited to see the focus on autonomous vehicles, which will, in a few short years, be relevant not just to engineers but all members of the public. NI has done a great job reinterpreting the challenges that face this industry into a manageable set of competition goals for all of the participating university teams. The unexpected road blockages and speed limits are going to make the competition extra exciting for both competitors and audience alike,” said Benjamin Sullivan, 2016 team leader.

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