ISI Team Builds Bot in 5 Hours to Best MIT and 4 Others

May 23, 2008

An ISI team led by Dr. Behnam Salemi won the Planetary Robotic Contingency Challenge competition at the 2008 International Conference on Robotics and Automation (IRCA- 2008) in Pasadena, May 21-22.

The general theme for this year's ICRA challenge was space robotics. The challenge simulated a series of unexpected problems occurring at a planetary habitat, where a robotic solution must be quickly developed and deployed, using only existing resources and robotic modules.

ISI's team, named Morpheus, came from Dr. Wei-Min Shen's Polymorphic Robotics Lab. Harris Chiu and Feili Hou contributed to the software development, Nadeesha Ranasinghe contributed to the vision and control, Rizwan Khan, Mike Rubenstein and Jacob Everist helped in the preparation and hardware construction.

"The robot we designed was very powerful and flexible to adapt to unexpected tasks, and the competition really showed the value of teamwork," said Salemi.

The challenges were announced each morning at 8:30AM and had to be solved by 1:00PM.

The competing teams had no advance knowledge of the events and had to design and construct a robot on the spot, deploy the robot via an airlock, teleoperate the robot to explore the simulated Mars-like environment, and handle unexpected situations, which included replacing and repairing damaged solar panels outside the habitat, repairing damage in air-ducts, and patching leaks in the system.

Six international teams from MIT, Cornell, the Universities of Washington and Southern Denmark, and a private American robotics team competed against ISI's Morpheus team. Morpheus posted the highest score, 40, for five events. MIT placed second with 37.

The award ceremony took place at the conference on Friday, May 23.

The conference is the largest of its kind in the world. The technical program this year had 661 papers from more than 40 countries. Nearly 1300 people attended.

This year's ICRA conference was organized by Viterbi School computer science faculty members. Associate Dean for Research Maja Mataric' served as the conference general chair, Professors Gaurav Sukhatme and Stefan Schaal as the program chairs, and Professor Emeritus George Bekey the honorary chair.

Images of the competition and competitors are at:

Morpheus: (from left) Mike Rubenstein, Jacob Everist, Rizwan Khan, Behnam Salemi, Wei-min Shen (advisor), Nadeesha Ranasinghe, Harris Chiu, Feili Hou.