Creativity inspires at the 2016 Mini-Urban Challenge regional competition

May 17, 2016

By Tracie R. Dean, ARL Public Affairs

ADELPHI, MD (April 9) -- Researchers from the U.S. Army Research Laboratory participated in the 2016 Mini-Urban Challenge National High School Robotics Competition Saturday, April 9 at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Maryland.

As part of the combined outreach efforts between the ARL, the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the Doolittle Institute and Virginia Tech Applied Corporation, this year's mini-urban robotics competition challenged high school students to design and program a robotic vehicle to autonomously navigate a mini-urban city, using a LEGO Mindstorm EV3 kit provided to each team upon local competition registration.

The Washington D.C. regional competition tested team robots on their ability to complete a difficult urban course with tasks analogous to parking and navigating through the nation's capital.

Teams of high school students from Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Florida gathered to compete in the indoor competition. Lt. Gen. Arnie W. Bunch Jr., military deputy Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition provided opening remarks for the event. Bunch briefly commented on the military's need for students educated in STEM-related fields.

"We need men and women from diverse backgrounds working in STEM. The military is a technology driven force. We need young men and women to come in and replenish our ranks; either in the military or in industry."

AFRL program manager and mini urban challenge organizer Brian Mitchell discussed the skills students gain when competing at the high school level and the overall benefits of participating in STEM related competitions.

"The competition itself gives students interested in STEM an opportunity to do something at a competitive level. It gives them another outlet to do STEM-style competitions with their peers outside of the classroom," Mitchell said.

"Understanding how we are going to have autonomous vehicles navigating through cities is something we are going to see in the future. By exposing high school students to that kind of autonomous robotics requirement, it's preparing them for the research they will need to do in college and beyond when they move out into government or industry," Mitchell added.

2016 Mini Urban Challenge regional categories and winners:

First place - Krop High School, Miami, Florida; team Krop Frontal Robotomy

Second place – Fairfax High School, Fairfax, Virginia; team Fairfax Collision Free

Third place – Walkersville High School, Walkersville, Maryland; team Walkersville WPD

Best in show – Walkersville High School; team Kewl Kats

Best engineering design – Wootton High School, Rockville, Maryland; team Wootton How to Robot

Best technical presentation – Krop High School; team Krop Frontal Robotonomy

ARL military deputy COL Kevin Ellison congratulated all participating teams and highlighted the noticeable comradery displayed throughout the competition.

"Today's competition forced each team to collaborate and come up with different courses of action to get the overall job done. The teamwork you displayed today is something that is needed in future scientists and engineers across the government," Ellison said.

First place regional competition winners advance to the mini-urban challenge national competition which is scheduled to be held in Tampa, Florida later this summer.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory is part of the U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, which has the mission to ensure decisive overmatch for unified land operations to empower the Army, the joint warfighter and our nation. RDECOM is a major subordinate command of the U.S. Army Materiel Command.

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Last Update / Reviewed: May 17, 2016