He may look like a skeleton of welded steel attached to a couple bicycle wheels, but inside that skeleton is a thinking machine. His name is GCCR, a fully autonomous robot created by the hands and minds of the GCC’s Robotics Club.
This 100-pound robot’s time to shine is approaching, and all 15 members of the club are working hard so that he can enter the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition in June. This competition will put GCC under a spotlight as well since it will be the only community college team that will be entering the contest, one with prizes up to $25,000.
This is a competition where undergraduate and graduate student teams build fully autonomous robots that have to navigate through obstacle courses where the robot has to be able to detect and avoid the obstacles, such as potholes and barricades. The robot cannot be remote-controlled: its on-board software controls it.
Club president Narek Isaghulyan started the club last semester, which is when the computer editing and designs of GCCR began. The actual building of the robot began this semester. It can now hold twice its weight and also travel up to 10 mph.
Andre Kovich, a member of the club, said that the programming of a fully autonomous robot is no easy task.
“Try to program a computer to think like a human thinks,” Kovich said. “That’s just simply on a whole other level of complexity.”
Recruiting members for the club wasn’t a difficult task since all of the current 15 members of the club already knew each other from previous classes, mainly physics. They are still actively recruiting new members since many of the current members will be transferring to other colleges after this semester.
Eduardo Aldana, another member of the club, believes the Robotics Club stands out from other GCC clubs because it has something to show for the funding it received.
“And when the student government sees [GCCR], they’ll say ‘Wow!’ we’re funding something that we can physically see,” Aldana said.
Rufus Simon, another Robotics Club member, said that money was definitely an issue at first, but everything started falling into place once people started believing in the club. The next step was trying to figure out how to make the robot autonomous.
“No one teaches you how to make an autonomous robot,;you’ve got to learn for yourself,” Simon said.
The Robotics Club also found sponsors to help with the materials to build GCCR. Aldana said that Montrose Bike Shop donated the tires and Industrial Metal Supply Company donated some metal, but they ended up using steel because it is easier to weld. The entire construction of the robot is done at GCC.
Pedro Kim, ASGCC’s vice president of finance, said the Robotics Club has been mainly funded through the CPS grant program, and was able to receive that funding of about $4,700 because it is a new club on campus.
“[The Robotics Club] is looking into representing the school in an innovative way, which is the main purpose of this program,” Kim said.
GCC mathematics professor Thomas Voden, the club’s adviser and mentor, said that there is a plan in the works to make a kind of class that would involve making robotics, which involves mathematics, physics, and engineering. This plan is still in the very early stages but they hope, with the help of some funding, that they can turn this plan into a reality.
“We are actively looking for ways to create a more structured robotics experience,” Voden said.
The club is still in the midst of determining their transportation plans since it will be impossible to fly GCCR to Michigan, where the competition takes place. The 19th Annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition will take place in Rochester, Michigan. from June 3 to June 6.