Today was my EGN 1007 competition: The Great Naval Orange Race
The point is to design an autonomous boat, with it's own on-board propulsion system not containing any sort of combustion, and get it to go all the way around the reflecting pond at my school, whilst carrying a naval orange.
One of the problems is that the pond is a perfect semi-circle, and steering is difficult work. One solution was to use our Parallax boards from last semester, utilizing Arduino programing in conjunction with an IR sensor to "see" the wall of the pond and follow it. Here's the problem: parallax sucks. The boards fry, the sensors are iffy, the servos twitch. After working on a Parallax robot for a semester I can say first hand that they hardware is terrible and can't follow its software very well. A single change in the frequency output, by a mere .001% for the IR sensor, will literally send your robot spiraling off of a 3 foot high table and in to a million pieces at 9.8 m/s^2.
Arduino. Ahhhhhhh, Arudino, My true love. You are the original, the mighty, the beautifully simple. The programing was written by Arduino (thus the name?) and their hardware, while about 10% more expensive than Parallax, actually works. If my robot doesn't go in to kamikaze mode while I'm testing a program to get it to see black lines, it's worth it.
RabbiReview's Decision: Spend the extra for Arduino, when you don't buy three of every fried, broken part, you'll be thankful.
(Here are videos of some past races, I took a lot of footage of my boat (Placed 13th out of 270) and I'll be uploading it once finals are over next week. Enjoy!)
Videos of Past Races: http://tinyurl.com/7xmpj89