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USU Engineering Students Take 2nd Place in Autonomous Vehicle Race

Sept. 20, 2016 – A student team from Utah State University’s College of Engineering brought home a second place prize from the national Autonomous Vehicle Competition held Sept. 17 in Niwot, Colo.

The USU AVC team, a group organized by the IEEE student branch, took second place in their weight category and sixth place overall. The AVC is an annual event hosted by Sparkfun that brings engineers and makers together in a competition to build the best vehicle capable of navigating an obstacle course autonomously with no human intervention.

AVC Team

USU College of Engineering students placed 2nd in their category and 6th overall at the Autonomous Vehicle Competition in Niwot, Colo. on Sept. 17th. Left to right, Justin Anderson, Terran Gerratt, Eric Alsop, Anthony DaVore, James Merrill, Taylor Peterson, Colton Lindstrom, Jorden Luke, Nick Huld, Heidi Harper, Kareena Hudson. Dana Sorensen, center. 

Team member Taylor Peterson, a graduate student in electrical engineering, said he and his teammates were very pleased with the results.

“We were pitted against many experienced engineers, students and hobbyists with a variety of approaches to the same goal,” he said. “Our car may have not been the fastest, but it made up for that with a dang good system for adapting to whatever obstacles it encountered.”

AVC Race

Dana Sorenson is configuring the vehicle for the first race while James Merrill stands by with override controls

Peterson said the USU vehicle finished the race thanks to its innovative design.

“Slow and steady just about sums up our victory,” he added. “Our car could bump into a barrier, lose orientation, or just get confused and within a second or so, recalculate its approach and try again! This proved extremely useful because of the first dozen or so cars to attempt the track, the USU Cruiser was the first and only car to make it to the finish line.”

The USU team would have performed even better, he explained, were it not for the unexpected stop the vehicle made mid-course.

“That was a major blow to our total point score but luckily we performed our best lap during the third heat,” said Peterson.  

The team members hope to improve on the design of the car and enter in next year’s race. The team wishes to thank the USU Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, the College of Engineering, the IEEE student branch, Thermo Fisher Scientific, Reed's Precision Machining, Cache Valley Plating LLC and Larry Bush of Autonomous Solutions Inc. who offered invaluable insight and to help the team succeed. 

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Media Contact:
Matt Jensen – USU College of Engineering | matthew.jensen@usu.edu | office: 435-797-8170 | cell: 801-362-0830 | @EngineeringUSU | engineering.usu.edu