Each team is required to design, build and demonstrate a semi-autonomous mobile robot that can complete simple tasks independently in response to instructions from a remote computer. The project will culminate with an end-of-term competition between the teams, with a portion of the course mark awarded based on the team performance in the competition. In addition, a portion of the final mark will be award ed based on an assessment of the innovation of the team in solving the problem and in utilizing the available resources.
Many high-technology companies are involved in pre-commercial, developmental research projects that will lead to new or enhanced products or services. In Canada there are several major sources of partial support for such activities. National examples include the NRC IRAP programme, PRECARN Associates Inc, CANARIE, the Canadian Space Agency, the Climate Change Initiative. A current Request for Proposals (RFP) from PRECARN, which supports the Intelligent Systems industrial sector in Canada illustrates the business context in which a proposal for any technical innovation in which it will participate. This RFP is targeting R&D projects on the order of $2.4M over a two year timeframe.
The PRECARN program requires collaboration between various companies, which include end users of the technology (early adopters) and technology providers that have realistic mechanisms through which to commercialize the technology and access international markets. In addition, the collaboration must include a partner that has a demonstrated capability to carry out innovative R&D in the area of intelligent systems. One of the important criteria for success in securing PRECARN support is to convince PRECARN that the proponents are a strong team that can work together. A number of Newfoundland-based companies (e.g. C-CORE, Canpolar East, Instrumar, Guigne International, Georesources) successfully compete in this type of R&D environment.
This project course is loosely modelled on a PRECARN project and tries to encompass many of the factors that would be encountered by a Newfoundland technology company in carry out such a technical development.
The scenario for this project is based on the development of autonomous mining vehicle technology for operations in the tunnels of underground mines. The figure below illustrates the tunnel system in a typical underground mine.
Mining Systems International (MSI), a company based in Central Canada, is developing an autonomous load-haul-dump (LHD) vehicle for automated transportation of blasted rock from an orebody to an orepass. The figures below show LHDs operating in an underground mine tunnel (also known as drifts). The company, which has extensive experience in the development of vehicles for the mining industry, requires a partner to develop the guidance and navigation systems that will allow the LHD to operate autonomously. In order to identify an appropriate partner, MSI will issue feasibility study contracts to engineering design teams for the development and demonstration of an autonomous LHD (A-LHD) that can carry out some basic autonomous operations in a laboratory mine. The final demonstration will take the form of a competition between the design teams.
The laboratory mine environment in which the the A-LHD is to operate is illustrated (approximately) in the figure below.
The main tunnel layout is approximately rectangular in shape, with four branch tunnels (one on each side of the rectangular main tunnel) as illustrated. The mine has the following characteristics:
An example laboratory mine will be set up in EN-3076 (senior ECE student laboratory), and will be available throughout the term. You are not permitted to make modifications to this set-up without the explicit permission of the course instructors. The instructors reserve the right to make modifications to this set-up at any time during the term and before demonstrations or the final competition, provided that the mine characteristics are consistent with those given above and the general layout given in the figure above.
The following are constraints that must be considered in the design of the system:
The A-LHD is required, in response to commands from a remote operator (who will not have visual contact with the A-LHD), to gather ore from one of the branch tunnels and deliver the ore to a second branch tunnel and return to the initial tunnel containing ore (white styrofoam). Each branch tunnel will be uniquely identified by a letter (N, S, E, W) corresponding to north, south, east and west. The letter will be 4” high and printed in arial font with black text centered on an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of white paper that will be posted on the back wall of the tunnel. The bottom edge of the paper will be 1” from the floor and centered on the back wall of the branch tunnel. Each side of the main tunnel will include one branch tunnel. The length of the branch tunnels will be no less than 2 ½’ and no longer than 5’. During the competition, each team will only be told the letter corresponding to the branch tunnel into which the ore is to be dumped.
At the start of the competition, the A-LHD will be placed at a random location in the main tunnel heading in the clockwise direction with respect to the main tunnel. Performance will be judged based on the time required to complete the task successfully. (see Final Competition)
The vehicle is to be a modified Bobcat 753 RC Loader (remote control removed) as illustrated at the left. In addition it is expected that each team will make use of some or all of the following components:
Teams will consist of five or six students, and students may choose teams subject to the following restrictions:
Students strongly encouraged to ensure that your team members have diverse skills. Team lists are to be submitted by e-mail by 0900 on Sept. 7.
Each team must develop a project management plan that includes task descriptions (work plan) and resource (equipment and personnel) profiles. Each team must identify design sub-groups (i.e., task/personnel assignments) for the project, and should select a project manager who will co-ordinate the team and ensure that the project proceeds according to the project management plan.
Last modified: July 23, 2001 by Ray Gosine