GRAND CHALLENGE SPECIFICATION
Robots today have been used successfully in
many domains, from exploring Mars and
finding evidence of water, to mapping the
health of Coral Reefs, to assisting
long-distance drivers, and assembling cars.
In our course we will pursue a grand
challenge approach to robotics and create
new robot bodies and brains. We are
motivated by tasks at the frontier of
today's robotic capabilities. We will
develop solutions for these tasks that are
grounded in state-of-the-art algorithms and
systems science for robots. We will
implement these solutions and test them
using a challenge format.
Our robots will
employ some of the most advanced techniques
for perception, navigation, and manipulation
to cope with unknown environments,
negotiating intricate paths, adapting their
next move to obstacles, finding useful
objects in the environment, and using them
to build a structure. This work will provide
our students with the foundations for
creating computer systems that interact with
the physical world, leading the way from PCs
to PRs (personal robots).
The grand challenge for this course is Build
a Shelter on Mars. Imagine a robot delivered
via parachute into a remote and unknown
environment such as the surface of Mars, and
given a crude prior map of the local terrain.
Imagine further that construction materials, in
the form of distinctively colored blocks, have
been similarly delivered and are scattered
around the landscape; some have ended up where
intended (i.e., in known locations), whereas
others have ended up in unknown locations or
may have been lost or destroyed.
We wish to design and implement a robot that
can move about its new domain, collect blocks,
bring them (together or one at a time) to some
point, and assemble them into a primitive shelter.
The shelter may range from a simple low wall, to
a multi-level (stacked) wall, to an "L" or "V"
shape, to a room-like structure.
The elements needed to solve Building a
Shelter on Mars enable other robot
applications, ranging from autonomous
navigation with dynamic obstacles, searching
and rescuing victims at a disaster area,
tidying up a room, clearing the dishes in a
cafeteria, delivering packages in an office
environment, and fetching a glass from the