Event Highlights DARPA Robotic Vehicle Race

Posted: April 22, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron and Colleen Kearney Rich

See “David,” the autonomous vehicle, and hear from students who worked on it as part of an afternoon of events sponsored by the School of Information Technology and Engineering (IT&E). Along with the companies ENSCO Inc. and SRA International, IT&E is presenting a review of the Defense Advanced Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Grand Challenge called “The Future Is Now: Racing Robotic Vehicles.” The event will be held today from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Johnson Center.

Team ENSCO from Springfield, Va., led by ENSCO engineer Gary Carr, created an all-terrain autonomous vehicle that competed with 14 other teams in the Mojave Desert in March. The team was composed of ENSCO Inc. researchers and engineers who partnered with various groups, including George Mason. Students from the Geography Department and Professor Sergei Andronikov, who leads Mason’s efforts in geographic information systems (GIS), had the opportunity to participate.

ENSCO is an IT company that works closely with IT&E, and SRA was the prime DARPA contractor for oversight of the competition, providing all networking and communication services, including real-time tracking of the entries and chase cars.

Although “David” qualified to attempt the 142-mile course, it did not complete it. In fact, none of the finalists completed more than seven miles of the course, and DARPA expects to offer the challenge—and a $1 million prize—again in a year or two.

At today’s event, representatives from DARPA, SRA, and ENSCO, as well as Mason students, will give technical presentations about the vehicle from 1 to 3 p.m. in the Johnson Center Cinema.

“David” and related displays will be available in Dewberry Hall from 2 to 5 p.m., and networking is encouraged in the Dewberry Hall Atrium, where refreshments will be available from 3 to 5 p.m.

For more information on the DARPA Grand Challenge, see the Gazette story.

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