Friday, 3 July 2009

AIR 2009 in retrospect

After the first two days of lectures we then went on to work on a project in teams. My team were working on an autonomous sailing boat which uses an artificial endocrine system for fault tolerance. Our goal was to make the boat maintain a heading, so for instance it should always try and point towards north, if we can do this then the boat will move in a straight line. The difficulty was that the boat doesn't have a rudder, it steers with two sails, one at the front and one at the back. We only had 3 days to do this work in so although it doesn't sound ambitious it kept us very busy! The main problem came with communicating with the PIC on the boat since you can only receive information every so often without causing latency issues. We spent a long time solving this problem and cursing the PIC. I think it was a problem with the API or something. Anyway we managed to get it working and it can move in the direction we tell it to. It doesn't point the right way whilst doing it... it tends to oscillate around the goal heading and slows down a lot when it faces into the wind but it does move in the right direction.
Now the research camp is over my team (including me) are writing a paper for submission to UK Computational Intelligence in Nottingham. It'll be my first publication!

Overall the research camp has been a really good experience and I've learnt a lot about robotics and teamwork. The location, Aberystwyth, was also lovely and I miss the epic scenery and the beaches and lakes. I hope to go back soon! I would thoroughly recommend the summer camp to anyone who's interested in robotics as part of their PhD, there were even a couple of people there who knew nothing about robots and it was useful for them too. Very highly recommended, kudos to Martin Huelse for organising it.

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