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The Robot Racer Capstone Project

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2009 Annual Conference & Exposition


Austin, Texas

Publication Date

June 14, 2009

Start Date

June 14, 2009

End Date

June 17, 2009



Conference Session

Project-Based Learning in ECE Education

Tagged Division

Electrical and Computer

Page Count


Page Numbers

14.1247.1 - 14.1247.15



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Paper Authors


James Archibald Brigham Young University

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James K. Archibald received the B.S. degree (summa cum laude) in mathematics from Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, in 1981, and the M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in computer science from the University of Washington, Seattle, in 1983 and 1987, respectively. Since 1987, he has been with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Brigham Young University. His current research interests include robotics and multiagent systems. Dr. Archibald is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery and the Phi Kappa Phi.

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Doran Wilde Brigham Young University

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Dr. Wilde started his career as an electrical engineer in Oregon where he worked 12 years in industry doing microprocessor design. In 1990, he began graduate studies at Oregon State University, where he received his M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Computer Science in 1993 and 1995, respectively. In 1995, he joined the faculty in the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Brigham Young University where he is currently serving as an associate professor. Dr. Wilde has taught a wide range of computer and electrical engineering courses and has been involved in new computer engineering course development. He has been actively engaged in research in the fields of computer arithmetic, application specific systems and architectures, and autonomous vehicles. Dr. Wilde is a senior member of the IEEE and is the father of seven children and eight grandchildren.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

The Robot Racer Capstone Project Doran Wilde, James Archibald Brigham Young University


This article describes a senior design project based on small vision guided autonomous vehicles that satisfies the longtime ABET requirement of a culminating design experience. The design and development of autonomous robots is well suited to capstone design projects because of the technical challenges in creating functional vision, control, and communication subsystems and integrating them into a working whole. The scope of this project is large enough that it requires a multidisciplinary team since no individual student can complete it working alone. Participants receive technical guidance as well as timely instruction on teamwork and project management. We describe how the Robot Racer project and the associated course are structured, detail the resources that are required, and present results that suggest that this culminating project is particularly effective in preparing our Electrical and Computer Engineering students for engineering practice and in giving students confidence in the application of their engineering knowledge.


For several years, graduate students, engineering faculty, and selected undergraduates at Brigham Young University have been involved in projects developing new technology for small, autonomous vehicles, both ground- and air-based. Since student interest in robotics is widespread, and since the communication, vision, and control sub-systems for these vehicles are based on principles addressed in our undergraduate program, it was natural to create additional opportunities to expose our undergraduate students to the unique and challenging technical problems arising in this application area. In 2006, we began a new senior capstone project that builds on past successes with other robot-based senior projects, including a Robot Soccer project in which student teams built and programmed small robots to play soccer [1,2], and an Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition project in which a robotic vehicle was autonomously driven through an obstacle course [3,4]. The new Robot Racer project focuses on designing vision and control modules so that an off-the-shelf RC vehicle can drive itself through a visually marked course using on-board vision processing. The project poses technical problems for our senior students that are both challenging and open-ended. For faculty instructors and advisors, the challenge is to provide enough structure that student teams are able to experience success with an expenditure of effort commensurate with the credit hours of the course they enroll in for the project.

In the next section, we describe the framework shared by all of the senior design projects in the department. We then discuss the rules of the robotic competition that determines the design goals and timeline for each participating team. That is followed by a discussion of our experiences in offering this class, including practical challenges and an assessment of how well the project meets the associated learning objectives.

Archibald, J., & Wilde, D. (2009, June), The Robot Racer Capstone Project Paper presented at 2009 Annual Conference & Exposition, Austin, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--4869

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