Penn robotics team heads for competition Down Under

MAGIC finalsPhoto Credit: Jordan Reese

Engineering students and faculty from Penn’s General Robotics, Automation Sensing and Perception Lab have been chosen as one of six international teams to compete in the 2010 MAGIC Finals, to be held Nov. 8-13 in an undisclosed area somewhere in the desert outside Adelaide, South Australia.
Why the mystery? Because MAGIC, or the Multi-Autonomous Ground Robotics International Challenge, is a joint initiative of Australia’s Defense Science and Technology Organisation and the research wing of the U.S. Army. The competition inspires engineers to develop the next generation of fully autonomous ground robots. Robots that can “think” for themselves. The hope is that a few generations of improvements will make these robotic creations sophisticated enough to manage battlefields in dangerous situations, keeping human soldiers out of harm’s way.

To reach the finals, the 40kg, four-wheeled robots had to prove they could execute an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission in a dynamic urban environment. Unmanned vehicles had to accurately explore and map the “battle zone,” locate marked “threats,” and do it all without human help in 3.5 hours.

Penn’s team will travel to Australia and map a half-kilometer-square space of uncharted territory using only team-built robots. They will compete against university and industrial teams from Maryland, the University of Michigan, and international finalists from Turkey, Tokyo and Australia. Twenty-three teams from five countries submitted entries to the competition, which awards $750,000 to the winner.

Originally published on August 3, 2010