The BJU Robotics Team, led by Dr. Bill Lovegrove and Will Woodham, returned from the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan, with satisfaction and recognition for its work with the autonomous vehicle Bruin 3.
The competition, held June 7–10, offered four challenges. The team placed in the two it entered—first in the Cyber Challenge and third in the Self-Drive Challenge.
Preparing for the Competition
Work on Bruin 3 began in the fall with the senior mechatronics class, and then the extracurricular robot team took over in the spring.
The robotics team—engineering students RJ Ring, Lane Camfield and Marcela Martinez Barrera and computer science student Alex Raddatz—prepared Bruin 3 for the competition. The students finished the hardware design, installation and testing of the vehicle. They also debugged and finalized the software for the competition.
Lovegrove, head of the Department of Engineering, said, “The effort the team put in to get this robot ready for the competition was outstanding. When they started preparing for the trip four weeks ago, the robot was not even ready to qualify.”
The team’s main event was the Self-Drive Challenge, the higher-level competition for low-speed electric vehicles.
“The vehicle had to complete a long list of self-drive tests such as lane following, recognizing and stopping at stop signs, making right and left turns, and stopping or going around obstacles, etc.,” said Woodham, engineering faculty member. “The vehicle design was also presented, and the vehicle had to pass an inspection by the judges to ensure the required systems and safety features were present and functioning on the vehicle.”
Unable to qualify by Saturday, the team still held to their decision to spend Sunday at church instead of at the competition. They waited until Monday to do more work, qualified, and received third place. Said Lovegrove: “I think God blessed that decision and gave us good success on Monday.”
The Cyber Challenge is a side event in which teams conduct a computer security analysis and protect their robot from hackers.
Robotics Team Special Mention
Martinez Barrera, a sophomore engineering student from Honduras, wrote the mandatory report and gave the oral presentation for the Cyber Challenge.
Having heard about BJU at her school from using the BJU Press curriculum, Martinez applied after the visiting international advisor recommended the University. She came to BJU in spring 2018 as a graphic design major. However, by the end of the semester, she changed her major because of a family issue.
“I then started investigating (other majors) and engineering caught my attention,” she said. “It turns out I like it more than graphic design.”
Engineering does not come without its challenges. The major innately uses difficult technical terms and ideas, so as an English as a second language student, Martinez makes sure to ask for more clarification. Study groups that include other ESL students are also beneficial. “We help each other out when we have difficulty understanding a subject,” she said.
Even as the youngest member of the team and the only female, Martinez benefited from being part of the team. “My team members always made a point to listen to my ideas, discuss them, and choose the best idea from all the ones offered. So, I really enjoyed working with them,” she said.
Although the Self-Drive Challenge interested her the most, Martinez was exceptionally involved in the Cyber Challenge. When she wrote the report, she had to learn many security controls and their applications. Presenting with so many unfamiliar technical terms was another challenge. Additionally, she said, “I get nervous when presenting, and when I’m doing it in English, my accent gets thicker and … (I have) an urge to change to Spanish.”
The work by Martinez and the team paid off, and they can give God the glory for a job well done.
Bruin 3 is being displayed at various locations on campus.