As design engineers, we all need a goal. By “goal” I mean, a target that justifies the amount of time we spend debugging and trying to make our circuits work like they did in the simulations. In an effort to get more people interested in the goal of building robots, a bunch of us members of the Roboteck Internet Discussion Group (in Italian or English) recently spent some time designing a competition. As mechanical insects walked around our meeting table (among all the pizza, beer, and red wine), we drafted a set of rules for the Robo Tolomeo Cup (RTC) competition. We named it the Robo Tolomeo Cup in order to reference the great Greek cartographer. Remember: navigation is key for any mobile robotics system. The rules are simple. Each robot must start from point A, navigate to point B at least 10 m away, and then return to point A. This must be done with pure dead reckoning—without any external reference—while avoiding a few convex obstacles just so the path is not a straight line. The score is inversely proportional to the distance from the marked returning point at the end of the session. A Rino-like system, the dsNav-Con board, and the theory behind it are all an entrant needs to build a robot for this kind of competition.
The first experimental competition is scheduled to take place this year. We are intentionally keeping it low-profile without sponsors or prizes. The only prize is the satisfaction of finishing a project. If there are enough participants who submit interesting designs, we may plan another, more involved, competition. The RTC could be considered an indoor version of—or stepping stone toward—a larger event such as the Robo-Magellan outdoor robotics competition. Who knows what the future will bring?