ECE Students & Alumni Compete in Robotic Race

 CMU's Sandstorm Sets Distance Record in DARPA Grand Challenge

March 17, 2004

As hundreds of excited spectators looked on, Carnegie Mellon's Red Team robotic racer, Sandstorm, traveled farther than any of the other 13 contestants in Saturday's (March 13) $1 Million DARPA Grand Challenge. The route for the unmanned, off-road race for autonomous vehicles stretched 142 miles---from Barstow, California, to Primm, Nevada. CMU's modified 1986 High Mobility Multi-purpose Wheeled Vehicle (HMMWV), or humvee, zipped 7.5 miles across the Mojave Desert, stopping when it hit a berm in the rugged terrain, damaging its front axle and shredding its tires.

"There is no class that can approach the experience of working on a project like this alongside some of the most brilliant individuals I have ever met," says ECE and CS sophomore Prasanna Velagapudi.

Red Team leader William "Red" Whittaker, the Fredkin Research Professor of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, designed Sandstorm with an international group of some 50 students, faculty, and researchers as well as talent drawn from more than 35 corporate sponsors. The collaboration began over a year ago and many will continue on for next year's $2 Million DARPA Grand Challenge. Meet some key players from the multidisciplinary team; our ECE students and alumni who made headlines around the world racing for the future...

Meet the Red Team

Spotlight on ECE Students

Yu Kato

An ECE graduate student, Yu is the Red Team's principal engineer for software and control of Sandstorm's gimbal stabilized platform. Building the world's best field range sensor unit based on the experience of the team, he has a strong background in hardware electronics and experience in software development. His advisor is ECE Department Head Pradeep Khosla and his favorite ECE class was 18-774, Embedded Control Systems, with ECE Professor and Associate Department Head Bruce Krogh.

Kevin Peterson

The leader of the Red Team's planning team, Kevin is earning his M.S. in ECE, after completing his B.S. in ECE with a CS minor as part of the Integrated MS/BS degree (IMB). He has also been accepted into the M.S. program at the Robotics Institute (RI). His main focus during undergrad was signal processing and controls, but he also took many robotics courses from the RI. Kevin has built a number of robots including a mobot and an autonomous wheelchair. He is most interested in dynamic (mid-level) planning, but is also intrigued by low-level controls and sensor processing.

Prasanna Velagapudi

Prasanna is a sophomore majoring in ECE and CS. Through the Red Team project, he hopes to further his knowledge of general robotics. As a freshman, his team developed a six-legged walking robot that won the Judge's Choice Award at the tenth annual mobot race. He is currently designing electronics for a novel search and rescue robot and a small colony robot. So far, his favorite ECE courses have been 18-220, Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering, with ECE Lecturer Tom Sullivan and 18-240, Fundamentals of Computer Engineering, taught by ECE Professor Don Thomas.

Spotlight on ECE Alumni

Joshua Anhalt

Joshua earned his M.S. and B.S. in ECE and considers himself a "mad electrical hardware hacker," having experience integrating microcontrollers and FPGAs with a full spectrum of sensors including magnetic, optical, and audio. He is competent in C, C++, Java, and Perl.

Alex Gutierrez

A recent ECE graduate, Alexander Gutierrez is now pursuing his M.S. in Robotics. He has worked with urban search and rescue robotics, leading an undergraduate team to create several small, autonomous robots capable of detecting body heat for the Carnegie Mellon Robotics Club. His team competed in the 2002 AAAI Urban Search and Rescue event in Calgary. In 2003, Alex worked on urban search and rescue in the Robotics Institute for Associate Professor Illah Nourbakhsh and Research Professor Katia Sycara and led another team to develop three large tele-operated robots with stair climbing and rough terrain navigational abilities.

Sam Harbaugh

Sam Harbaugh received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in EE from the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now known as Carnegie Mellon. He has been a Software Engineering distance instructor at CMU since 2000 and is President of Integrated Software, Inc. in Palm Bay, Florida, which he founded in 1981. With 37 years of work in real-time computer systems for process control, military and commercial applications, Sam holds 6 patents in process control methods and control systems. He was the principal software engineer for several large real-time computer systems development projects and has performed R&D in real-time applications of the Ada language for the DoD.

Sam also has extensive experience teaching electrical engineering, computer science, and software engineering at the Florida Institute of Technology and has used SEI/CMU video tape course materials. He is Past-President of the Space Coast Chapter of the International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE). His recent projects include: the Team Crusader project, Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT) Image Generation Subsystem (IGS), Warfighter's Simulation (WARSIM) 2000, and multimedia-based systems. At Integrated Software, Inc. he was a project manager and major contributor during one of the first implementations of the SEI's initial M.S. in Software Engineering curriculum.

Luiz Mirisola

Luiz earned his Ph.D. in ECE after receiving his MSc in Brazil, working on an autonomous blimp project. He studied software issues, including OS, networking, human interface, sensor telemetry and drivers, and RT-Linux. His main research interests are navigation and software architecture.

Excerpted with permission, Carnegie Mellon News, March 2004

Yu Kato

Kevin Peterson

Prasanna Velagapudi

Joshua Anhalt

Alex Gutierrez

Sam Harbaugh

Luiz Mirisola