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International robotics teams to compete in 21st annual IGVC

Wednesday, May 22, 2013
International robotics teams to compete in 21st annual IGVC
By Kathleen Williams, student writer

Dr. Ka C Cheok (third from left) and last year's ORA team at the IGVC competition.
Robotics teams from universities around the world will compete in the 21st annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) at Oakland University June 7-10. 

The IGVC event features robots designed and constructed by engineering students that perform tasks in four key events: the Autonomous Challenge, Design Challenge, GPS Navigation Challenge and the Joint Architecture Unmanned Systems Challenge. 

The competition provides students with exposure and the opportunity to apply skills outside the classroom, according to OU graduate student and president of the Oakland Robotics Association (ORA) Mike Truitt. 

“The exposure that comes with this event is huge. You’re judged by professionals in industries ranging from military to automotive,” he said. “By joining an organization like the Robotics Association or the Society of Automotive Engineers or the Aerial Systems Club, you’re solving problems with the things you learn in classes and labs. The solutions are abstract and open-ended, and that’s the real world.” 

This year’s competition has up to $50,000 in prize money at stake. 

There will be 53 teams hailing from across the U.S. and Canada, India, Japan, Turkey and Singapore. Two teams will represent Oakland this year. The ORA and the OU Aerial Systems Club (ASC) have both assembled a robot to compete. 

ORA’s robot, affectionately named Replicant, has been in progress for about a year, according to the team’s adviser Dr. Ka C Cheok. The team consists of 15 members, all engineering undergraduate and graduate students. The OU professor of engineering co-founded the first IGVC with the U.S. Army in 1993. The competition is intended to encourage growth in the field through education and research, Dr. Cheok explained. 

“The competition’s rules have been consistent, but the obstacle course gets more challenging every year. As new technologies come into play, the standard just gets higher,” he said. “The IGVC puts OU on the world map among engineers.” 

Truitt, who is pursuing a master’s degree in mechatronics, estimates the team has spent nearly 1,000 hours building Replicant. 

“We have mechanical, electrical and computer engineers. Everyone has their own specialty and without one of them, our team wouldn’t have anything,” he said. 

Last year, the ORA’s robot Botzilla took first place in the design challenge, third place in the JAUS challenge, and earned the Grand Award for coming in third place overall. The team was awarded with a $5,000 cash prize. 

This will be the Aerial Systems Club’s first year participating in the IGVC. The five-member team and its adviser, assistant professor of engineering Dr. Osamah Rawashdeh, have named their robot Kumki. 

“Our robots usually fly, but the ground design utilizes the same general concepts,” Dr. Rawashdeh said. “This year, we have a research group working on a ground robot and we decided to compete. It’s a good way to familiarize ourselves with the IGVC.” 

The technologies utilized in the process are widely applicable and are quickly being commercialized, according to Dr. Cheok. He explained that robotics is involved in the development of vehicles that drive and park autonomously, automatic braking and lane detection, among other features. 

“OU receives a lot of interest from the automotive industry,” he said. “The innovations and technologies they’re working on are the same ones our students are already familiar with.” 
To learn more about IGVC, visit the website at To get involved or learn more about the ORA team, visit the website.

For more information about programs and events in the School of Engineering and Computer Sciences, visit the website.