Fun at the SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition

It’s been a busy weekend, but I made sure to find time to pop by the headquarters of robotics startup and tinker headquarters SparkFun in Niwot, Colorado for the seventh annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition, or AVC. The main attraction is a competition open to the public to create autonomous model cars that can successfully navigate the company’s parking lot and make it to the finish line. This is nowhere near as easy as it sounds because there are no remote controls, inventors push the “go” button and the car makes it not, all under its own power.

What a cool idea for an event!

Here are some pictures from “the pit”, starting with a father / daughter team poised and ready to unleash their vehicle:

ready for the avc race with their autonomous car girls and tech geek girls

Adjacent to them, a previous winner was prepping for the same race, being interviewed by the event host:

man ready to release autonomous robot car

This particular race had two competitors, but the next “heat” had four cars lined up at the starting line and the first thing that happened once they got going was that two crashed into each other:

ready for the autonomous vehicle

Meanwhile there were a lot of spectators, hundreds of ’em cheering on the vehicles, and they even had a row of vendor and exhibitor tents showing off their wares:

sparkfun vendor exhibit area

Each vehicle is designed by a 2-4 person team and they tried the course, tweaked their cars, and tried again:

team from autonomous vehicle competition

Behind the big SparkFun building was another really popular tent: car robot wars!

battling robot cars

All in all, a really fun event, popular, and inspiring, watching the robocar battles (complete with whirring saw blades in the corners of the battle arena) and the slightly less aggressively equipped autonomous vehicles wind their way through the parking lot, some failing to make the first turn on the course and others zipping around, making it over the jump ramp and more.

Kudos to SparkFun for hosting!

Learn more for next year: SparkFun Autonomous Vehicle Competition.

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