WCRS 2013 in photos

What a fantastic day for an outdoor robot race, for the 2013 Robot Games! It made for some great images, and there were a few fun surprises, too. So this post is a little heavy on the pictures, and they will be slightly larger-than-normal images for today.

Although one of my many hats is as a professional photographer, I brought my big-boy camera along today because I wanted to do a little ‘intelligence gathering’ on the off-roadbot course. But I punched up the images to ’11’ and slapped a Creative Commons license on them, primarily so the folks who run the games can lift the images and use them however they want.

Why on earth would a professional photographer do such a thing? Give away images? “Because I can, and because it’s worth it.” Read the rest of the post to figure out why. It’s really the most important reason these games exist.

I was a little late to check out the action indoors, but I did get to see the quadcopter demo outside. Here is the quad, hovering to the left of the tent. The idea is to fly a pattern through the hoops in the tent and land on the garbage can, but it was too gusty. I think I could build something for this next year… hmm…

Next I turned my attention to the off-road course. It looks pretty easy, until you try to walk on it. It’s not flat. It’s not smooth. It’s a storm water drainage holding area, so it really doesn’t get mowed, either. It’s perfect!

Here it is with the hazard cones placed. The starting line is between the two furthest cones, and the goal is to get back to near where I’m standing and through the fence gate, which means climbing the low slope out of the drainage area and motoring down a gravel road.

There is also a really good reason the area is fenced off. The aerospace museum is at the end of the runway, in one of the commercial parks that surround the Calgary airport. So we got a mini airshow as one of the neighbours took off.

Two of the chassis were based on off-road RC toys. I had thought of this when I was considering the cost of building my own chassis, because it was several times less expensive. But they don’t have very big tires, or very much ground clearance, so they got stuck. A lot.

This little robot, called ‘Y Not’ had the biggest tires, (Vex tires, I think), and was best at moving over the rough gravel and going uphill. I think at some point the phone/gps interface died, so it was pretty much just going in straight-ish lines.
Note to future robot builders: Hazards can be tough for rangefinders to spot, if they look like ‘ground’
And just because a hazard is marked by a cone doesn’t mean you still can’t fall into it. There were a few of these outlet pipes, and some were bigger than the robots. I think the cones were more so the people didn’t break an ankle.

The official start. For some a press of a button, for others a battery connection. Or ‘Wait, what? Start?’. LOL!

There was lots of helping hands to keep things moving along.

There was also a fair bit of chasing after ‘bots to keep them going at least sort of the right way. The grass was much taller and thicker than it appears from a distance.


If you think you have enough torque to climb onto this road, but haven’t tested it, then you don’t. It’s that simple. When you are a robot with 2″ wheels those 3″ rocks mean the slope is basically vertical. So if you can’t climb vertically, you will get stuck.
After a few helpful pushes, the first two made it uphill, and onto the road. Pretty speedy over flat ground, but they were basically driving blind.

I love how this shot shows him ‘catching some air’. Heh….


I wonder if the ultrasonic range finder was getting confused at the gate. I think they should have left it open, and had a goal area roped off so the spectators wouldn’t get a ‘bot to the shin.

One of the bots, Y Not, is still down on the course, having electrical trouble. This shot really shows the scale of the challenge, so to speak. If the bots were twice as big, the problems would seem half as small…


Note to self: Stiffer, bigger tires are better. The current tires on my rover are about this big, maybe a little bigger (120mm), but they are very soft, so most of the drive energy goes into deforming the rubber, instead of climbing. The was the only bot to actually climb the hill on it’s own!


Woot! They make it across the finish with power to spare. Besides a couple of pit stops for electrical issues, this was certainly the most capable bot. It was powered by a Lego controller, so it doesn’t take a whole lot of CPU to win at these things. Just some good solid design. Well done!

I did get indoors; I found out that we do have a pcb manufacturer here in town, so I may have a few boards made now that I know I won’t be stuck paying for shipping or customs. Yay!

Totally unfair fight: Roomba vs skateboard vs hex walker.

Surprise! Jay Ingram. Well, sort of a surprise, anyway. I heard he was going to be there, but I didn’t see him until I was inside waiting for the awards to start. This little cardboard robot was roaming around, and it must have recognized him, because it kept running into his leg.

The awards start. They pretty much took over the museum for the day. I’m not sure I’d want the rover motoring around indoors on automatic drive in this place… I could see a lot scratched paint happening…

Jay took a minute to talk about Beakerhead, so you should go check that out as well. I have no idea exactly what they are about, so I’ll have to check it out, too, and have the rover tag along. Maybe when it isn’t lasering rocks I’ll put an umbrella on it’s head and make it serve drinks at their social events, or something.

Awards start… some for the older folks (ok, these guys are totally younger than me…)

But mostly for the younger engineers. Good crowd. And Jay did a little quiet coaching so they wouldn’t just stare at their shoes… pretty cool dude.

Ok, remember the robot ‘Y not’? (it’s actually spelled Y with a line over it, as in ‘not’ or inverted signal, but I have no idea how to type that…). They had a big trip from somewhere down south, so by now the kids were toast.

But Jay didn’t mind; I think he was really encouraged by the number of kids that are going to be making the robots that take care of you and I when we get old, visiting new planets, and doing micro-surgery in our bloodstream. Just look at that grin…


One Reply to “WCRS 2013 in photos”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing those photos! I led the Cardston contingent (2.5 hrs south of Calgary), and I love the pictures of my four-year old, one of my students, and Y Not!

    It was a great event. Y Not's range sensors were detecting things in front of it, we realized minutes before the event, and we never did get the GPS waypoint following working quite right. I can't wait to see what we can come up with for next year.

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