Work has begun!

With exams drawing to a close, work has officially begun for the Villanova University RobotX team.  As with any engineering project, it is essential to the early stages of our development on the RobotX boat that we have a detailed design created.  The attached photo is a 3D model of SeaCat, the boat we will use for all of our local off-shore testing.  The boat is approximately four feet long, so it is about four times smaller than the boat that will be used in the competition, and also has a slightly different design.  Despite these differences, the application of the software and hardware will still yield the same results when applied to the full-size boat in Florida.  All future modifications to the project will be made on both this digital representation as well as the actual boat, making this a “living” image.  Team members Ian Stankosh and Mary Spillane, both undergraduate mechanical engineering students at Villanova, are in charge of this portion of the project.

Stay tuned for more updates from the team!  Blogs will be posted regularly to this page.

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 5




















July 11, 2015

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 5

Today is the big day!  The team is scrambling and getting everything together to make sure our tests go smoothly.The Villanova SeaCats had the interoperability discussion early this morning, to which Adam presented very well on.  Anderson and Scott also added their contributions as well and efficiently communicated the intentions of future plans to the judges with the system.  Afterwards, the first test came along and SeaCat managed to go through the start SpeedGate, and ended the run during the Obstacle Avoidance.  The team began to prepare for the next test, but unfortunately an aggressive storm hit and caused the competition to be postponed until tomorrow morning.

Current Status: The team is currently doing some final testing on the communication with the judges and addressing the code to try and figure out ways to improve the Start SpeedGate tasks.  The last day of RoboBoat is near, and its time to grind out the last bit of work that needs to be done.

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 4


















July 10, 2015

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 4

Today was yet another day full of testing, but has now switched gears to focus more on the obstacle avoidance task.  Dr. Nataraj arrived this morning and has also assisted the team with valuable advice and mentoring in regards to the tasks.  Anderson spent some time collecting data during the tests in order to create wavepoints for the boat to maneuver around.  Meanwhile, the rest of the team was busy preparing and practicing for the presentation, as Sam and Adam were the two to speak in front of the judges that evening.  The presentation went well, and most questions were asked about SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), the LIDAR/Vision System, and what plans the team had to improve the boat for next year.The Villanova SeaCats secured 5th place out of the 16 teams for that specific event (static judging).

Current Status: This evening, the team looks to continue to test the LIDAR to assure that it is prepared for the actual events and competition tomorrow.  The team will also attempt to get as much testing in as possible before tomorrow which also includes the acoustics tasks.  The focus is on as the competition is only hours away.  Well, time for a late night swim with SeaCat!

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 3



July 9, 2015

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 3

The Villanova SeaCats spent most of today testing again, going through the start/speed/gate, checking LIDAR data, and testing the automated docking algorithms. SeaCat successfully identified the red cruciform for the docking test and was able to maneuver towards its. Some frustrations arose when Anderson’s code would not build onto the Pandaboarad later in the day; however, it was  discovered that evening that the memory on the Pandaboard was full and that is why the code was unable to build. With some assistance from the competition technical director, Felix, Anderson and Gus spent time improving the heart beat feature of the judges’ communication code.

Current Status: After a long day in the brutal 100 degree weather of Virginia Beach, the team looks forward to another late night with SeaCat in the pool where the main goal will be to test the boat’s acoustic system.

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 2


July 8, 2015

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 2

Today the Villanova SeaCats is focusing on practicing all competition tasks. Testing began at 8 am this morning, where SeaCat successfully navigated through the course start/speed gate. SeaCat can now consistently navigate through the gate; meanwhile, advancements to the vision system are being implemented in order to aid in this task and the obstacle avoidance task.

Throughout the day, Anderson spent most of his time editing code to allow for proper readings by the vision system. A bug was found with respect to LIDAR’s axes, which caused several errors before. A new variable was defined to allow the axis to read angles properly from viewing straight forward. Later that evening, Mike and Chris hopped in the pool for a late night swim with SeaCat. The two acted as buoys to aid in further testing of the LIDAR. Some fellow hotel residents also decided to go for a late night swim, but unfortunately got SeaCat wet due to splashing games. They were quickly removed by the Central Florida team.

Shout out to Samantha for getting some late night Panera Bread and also working to enhance the acoustics system.

Current Status: The team is continuing to test throughout the night and is steadily improving.

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 1


July 7, 2015

RoboBoat Competition 2015, Day 1

The Villanova SeaCats is at the Founder’s Inn located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The goals for today include: 1) acoustic testing, where SeaCat will attempt to locate an underwater transponder and report its location, 2) an endurance test for the LIDAR, 3) updated IMU calibration to account for the change in the boat’s  geographic location, and 4) advancements in the boat’s communication with the judges’ server, including a heart beat.

A new load-bearing harness was designed and implemented to allow for a crane to pick up the boat and lower it in the water. Scott and Adam made a few runs to Home Depot for these materials. Additionally, Adam and Mike paid a visit to Walmart for some new fuses for the Speedgoat after its failure earlier in the day.

Current Status: Troubleshooting the Speedgoat real-time target machine after the discovery of a faulty fuse due to a shortage in the boat.  The team has proceeded with testing the new components, checking for capabilities, and carrying out the day’s goals.