Space Robotics Challenge (2017) – Team: Rhubarb

The Space Robotics Challenge is a competition put on by NASA. Competitors use a simulated version of the R5 robot, also known as Valkyrie, to complete tasks. These tasks are aimed at assisting a manned mission to Mars. The rules and a timeline of the competition can be found here.

The first round of the competition was a qualification round. 405 teams applied to the competition and only 20 move on to the next round. The qualification round consisted of two tasks:

  1. Lights on a panel in front of the robot light up. The robot must detect and report the color of the lights as well as the location of the lights in 3D space relative to the robot’s head. Teams are scored on how accurate their reports are compared to the actual colors and distances.

  2. The robot must walk from point A to point B. In between the two points is a door that the robot can open by pressing a button on the wall. Teams are scored on how fast they can accomplish the task.

NASA does not release the official scores for the teams, so it is impossible to determine where your team ranked among all the other teams. A small handful of teams have shared their scores and I think I did fairly well on Task 1 while Task 2 could have been improved upon.

My Task 1 solution:

My total color error was 0.0.
My total position error (accumulated over 20 lights) was 0.464917 meters.

My Task 2 solution:

My time was 35.479 seconds (the simulation doesn’t run at the same rate as real life).

Based on a reply to a bug/ticket request, it appears there were 42 teams that submitted at least one task, of which I was one of those teams. Unofficial scores, as reported by teams willing to share their info, are listed below:

Team Task 1 Task 2 Top 20
WHRL 0.139 6.503 Yes
WV Robotics Team 0.08 8.66 Yes
SpaceBucs 0.099751 6.570 Yes
ZARJ 0.18 6.322 Yes
Team Olrun 0.60 10.23 Yes
Team Mykos 10.01 9.91 No
Astrobotics 0.285769 13.64 No
Nevermore 0.08 6.59 Yes
Mingo Mountain Robotics 0.65 9.365 Yes
LearnRobots 0.538 14.977 No
Olympus Mons 0.15 8.22 Yes
Robot Garage 0.098419 12.124 No
Rhubarb 0.464917 35.479 No
Walk Softly 0.22 9.9 Yes
Team Middleman 1.1 93.3 No
Mystic 0.172804 7.466 Yes
Unknown 0.15 5.1 Yes
Unknown 2.9 10.72 Unknown
Unknown NA 10.8 No
Space Weavers 0.28 7.35 Yes
Unknown 0.20 39.0 No

Time was definitely against me in this project, as it tends to be in all these competitions. Due to an oversight with the company contracted to help run the competition, my application was not approved until late in the competition. Most teams had a solution to the two tasks and were starting to refine their solutions by the time I started. Between the holidays and my day job (both of which I prioritized over this competition), my available time for the competition was reduced even further. Check out my blog posts to see how I progressed throughout the competition.

My goal for this competition was to learn new things about humanoid robots while contributing back to the community. I was able to complete the tasks and I feel I accomplished my goals. A lot of what I used was free open source software. Contributing back to them will only help the community as a whole.

Links to my code:

Quick links found elsewhere on this page:

The robots in my life and other ramblings