Draft Rules Available for Review!

Filed in Draft Rules by on May 27, 2011 11 Comments

A set of draft rules have been posted and are open for public review and comment through 17-June-2011.  After the 17th, the rules will be removed from the website, modified by the judge committee, and then final rules posted on or around 28-June-2011.

Some important things to note:

  • Anyone may comment on the rules, although we ask that you include a name and method to communicate with you in case your comment is unclear (those who comment within this website don’t need to provide additional information than what is requested to make a comment).
  • The judge committee or its individual members may or may not respond to some or all of the comments or questions.  However, anything posted or emailed will be reviewed by the committee.  Any responses that are made will be done so publicly though this website.
  • A PDF copy of the rules may be made available on a case-by-case basis if requested.  However, since the rules are ‘draft’, we want to limit access to a document that could be re-posted, shared, or kept and misinterpreted as a final set of rules.

You may make comments, give feedback, or ask questions of the judge committee in two ways:

  • ‘Comment’ on a specific section of the rules.  This will be published and viewable to anyone who visits the site.  Others will have the option to respond to you via the ‘comment’ function.
  • E-mail challenge@wpi.edu

We look forward to hearing from all of you!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About the Author ()

Comments (11)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. * When the final rules are released, could you just publish them as a single document. Having to click through every category is tedious for the contestants and probably a lot of work for you to create.

    * For the pause switch, it would be great if you specified a radio unit so that contestants couldn’t show up and be told that they can’t compete because you don’t approve their radio. An inexpensive radio receiver that I often use is the LINX KH2 eg: Digikey part number RXD-418-KH2-ND , which works with LINX’s keyfob transmitters. They have 10 bit channel select so that pushing pause for one robot won’t interfere with any of the others. I have tested these (line of sight with a non-optimal antenna) to about 150 feet before I decided that it was good enough for my application. The receiver simply makes a pin go high that corresponds to the button that was pressed. There is no protocol to implement so working with it is very simple.

    * It would also be good for you to specify a safety light and e-stop button for the same reason of it would be a shame for someone or some team to spend hundreds of hours only to be disqualified because you didn’t like their safety light or e-stop button.

    * It would be useful to have a 3D rendering of the starting platform showing what exactly you mean by “designated front” and also showing what exactly the ramps will look like. For example, right now, it is unclear if the top view of the platform will look like a + or a T (is the back considered a side of the square platform?) Also, will ramp exist between the front and side ramps so that the edges of these pieces form a 45 degree angle to the front of the platform?

    * In sections E5 and E6 you mention topological and satellite data. Can you provide sample data files on your website? These will be of critical importance and will need to be understood sooner rather than later.

    * Will physical samples of the non-commercially available ‘samples’ be available for purchase or loan? There are currently no additional details of the samples in the FAQ as stated in E12.

    Other questions not addressed by the rules:

    * The actual environment is not specified. Can we assume that it would be a planet with an atmosphere because of the cooling rule? If so, would helium balloons be acceptable to use? They might work on a planet with an atmosphere but not on a place like our moon.

    * If a robot drops ‘breadcrumbs’ in the form of cubes, tennis balls, or some other identifiable object and another robot interferes with it by driving over it or worse dragging it behind it for a while, can the breadcrumb be placed back in its original position? Also, it would be good to have a rule about interference between robots and their associated equipment so that a team couldn’t just steal from another’s home base or intentionally move around breadcrumbs.

    * Frequency control will be important. It is very likely that teams will opt to use radio beacons to navigate. A detailed plan on how multiple robots will need to interact with their beacons might be necessary.

    * Will there be any chance that robots will need to operate at night or dusk or dawn?

    * How many of each type of sample will exist on the playing field?

    * Can you give a rough description of the playing field? For example, “The playing field will be located on a golf course where water hazards, sand traps, and various depths of grass could be encountered.” or ” The playing field will be typical of terrain found in the Mojave desert. Water will be in the form of recesses covered in polyethylene plastic and then filled with water.” Will the playing field be rectangular in shape or will it be an irregular shape?

    * The rules state that a robot will be delivered to one of three designated starting zones. Will the robots know what starting zone they are being delivered to?

    * The previous press release seemed to indicate that some samples’ locations would be marked on a map and that others would have to be found. Is this still the case or are all of the sample locations unknown at the start of the run?

    * Will samples ever be located under water or floating on top of it? If so, can you state the depth of the water and probable makeup of the bottom of the water area?

  2. Mark Kalmes says:

    What are the eligibility requirements for competitors? Can a team have a NASA employee on it? Are there any requirements on team size or system of funding?


  3. John Dumoulin says:

    Unless the imagery is considered proprietary, in the Deadlines & Documentation section, I recommend you encourage teams to post their video on YouTube and provide judges a link. That way, NASA PAO, Academic Affairs and the team’s host organization may be able to more quickly leverage the video. Suggest the new language read:

    30 days prior: Teams must post a video with written or voice narrative explaining what’s being seen. A link to the posted video should be submitted to judges. At a minimum, video should include imagery of their robot autonomously searching for, retrieving, and returning to the start with the sample.

  4. red says:

    This article by a participant in another of NASA’s Centennial Challenges is somewhat critical, but worth some thought nonetheless:


    The Space Review – essays and commentary about the final frontier
    NASA’s new robot challenge
    by Ben Brockert

    • Michael says:

      I urge those with final say on the rules to read red’s link above and address the issues contained in the article.

  5. Bill says:

    I’m hoping we can get one more round of public comment before the “final” version comes out. Can we get an update on where things are and proposed updates?

    I also wanted to say thank you in advance. I feel like you are thinking about how to best setup the competition and you’re in for a lot of late nights on our behalf.


  6. Mike Jones says:

    I think WPI needs to put some serious thought into “sharing” the competition field. It appears that many issues have come up based upon the ability for competitors to interact with each other on the field. Maybe split the field in 3? Or spread the competition out several days. I would much rather spend a week at the competition than deal with the complexities that arise with multiple competitors on the same field.

  7. Danh Trinh says:

    After spending 2 weeks analyzing the rules I came up with what I believe were 15 well thought out questions. It helped to copy the rules from the website into a single Word document that could be printed out and marked up. It’s becoming apparent that most of my questions were due to having multiple robots on the field. Similar to the statements of others here I have some serious concerns about the numerous complexities of dealing with multiple robots on the field. It’s already hard enough finding the “needles” in this 20 acre competition haystack.

    I am though very excited about entering the competition and I’m sure WPI will do the best they can to address our concerns.

  8. Jack Buffington says:

    It isn’t stated in the rules how many samples will be on the playing field but the point system implies that there will be relatively few. It’s probably pretty unlikely but is possible that two or more robots will find all of the samples. In that case, there is no rule to deal with who is first and who is second or if maybe they both share first. If that is the case, how does the prize money get split up if there are now four or more robots in the top three spots. How do the rules deal with ties for the other places? First place could be determined by who did it first but second and third don’t have any clear way to resolve the tie.

  9. A few thoughts after looking over the draft rules:

    It is important that the challenge should address fundamental unsolved technical problems, demonstrating how to perform something that has not yet ever been accomplished, or else find new ways to accomplish a required exploration task much more effectively.

    I therefore suggest that recognizing and retrieving a man-made object (a cache box) that would presumably have special markings to assist in determining the orientation, is an already solved problem not worthly of this event.

    Instead, I would think that the challenge could be broken into two tasks in order to represent realistic deep-space planetary exploration situations:

    (1) The rover will conduct an exhaustive photographic survey of the surface surrounding the lander, maneouvering around natural and man-made obstructions. It will capture mm-resolution images of every square meter of the surface within X meters of the lander. These images will be transmitted to Mission Control.

    (2) After the survey has been completed, Mission Control will select several rocks and soil samples to be retrieved. The location of each sample will be indicated by selecting the pixel location within an image that is the center of the sample.

    (3) The rover will be responsible for maneouvering to the indicated locations, determining the best method to extract the rock or soil, taking into account surrounding rocks and soil, and the near certainty that some of the rocks will be partially embedded in the soil.

    (4) The rover will return the samples to the lander.

    Because this event will be less than a year away, and most teams will not be at liberty to devote their full-time effort towards just this one project, I would like to suggest that the challenge be broken into two independent sub-tasks, allowing teams to demonstrate solution of either, or both sub-problems:

    (a) Demonstrate a rover that can conduct the photographic survey, and then return within arms reach (X meters) of the selected sample location.
    (b) Retrieve a rock or soil sample that is within arms reach.

    Keep in mind that:
    (a) Could be accomplished by a team with just a camera-equipped rover.
    (b) Could be accomplished by a team with just a camera-equipped multiple-DOF arm.

    Two other suggestions:
    (1) The rules should permit a team to conduct extensive testing in a large indoor space, such as a garage. Keep in mind that many teams will be experiencing snow and ice conditions over the winter that could make outdoor testing problematic.

    (2) Provide teams with a list of surrogate meaterials ( standard types of sand, gravel, …) that they can use to repliate competition conditions as closely as possible.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *