Robots here, robots there, robots everywhere! The world is embracing robotics regardless if it is in your living room for cleaning the floors, cutting your grass, delivering your sushi or into a warehouse to pick the products you have ordered via internet and box them to be shipped to you.
All of those have a common thread of thinking: autonomous robotics.
For 8 years the NXP Cup in Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) have made the hearts of students beat faster, mostly right before the speed race, as one of the student team members place their 1/18 scale autonomous electric car model on the race track and hope that the car will handle the unknown layout without tumbling or flying out of a curve.
Autonomous car racing is not new, but the NXP Cup brings new ideas to the game such as additional challenges for obstacle avoidance, emergency braking, precision driving and speed zone management. The vehicle is powered by 2 rear motors (brush or brushless), steered by one servo in the front and can hold as many NXP MCUs and MPUs as the team wants to load on the small chassis, the whole powered with one battery and, of course, no wireless connectivity.
The 2019/2020 season set a new record with the signing of 160 teams across 12 countries from Morocco all the way to Lebanon, passing by the Netherlands. Some high school and university students with teams of maximum 3 members have worked on their vehicles since December 2019 to prepare for the regional qualification races.
Alas, as the schedule was being finalized, the COVID-19 pandemic hit around the world and put the teams on hold, away from their labs, forcing them to work via remote classrooms.
However, thanks to NXP Cup’s sponsor Electromaker.io, 10 teams have registered for the NXP Cup Electromaker Innovation Challenge with the task of creating, developing and documenting their work on the Electromaker.io project platform. Student teams have been aiming at the 3 top prizes of Euro 1000, 500 and 250 with winners announced on Friday May 8th. Despite the COVID-19 situation, they have worked to create the best out of a difficult situation: not being able to run their cars in public and face their competitors on the racetrack.
The Winning Entries
Three projects are making the headlines for the Electromaker NXP Cup Innovation Challenge, all selected after a difficult evaluation, as many have done an outstanding work in creativity, documentation and execution on their racecars.
A great round of applause goes to Team VAXNA from Střední škola informatiky elektrotechniky in Rožnov pod Radhoštěm (Czech Republic) who took the top winnings of the pack as they worked in equipping their bolide with laser, encoders and special 3D printed parts to handle the new equipment. Most importantly, they have managed, despite all the COVID-19 restrictions and limited access to equipment, to create their own K64F PCB circuitry and hand solder the parts on it, making it a real challenge for high schoolers working from home. The documentation shared on the Electromaker platform for downloads is very comprehensive, well organized and the videos of their car running demonstrates their achievement.
The 2nd prize was awarded to team RASCar2020 from the Germany University of Lübeck, a second time participant university into the NXP Cup EMEA. The team’s description of the car on the Electromaker.io platform says “Badass robot car developed by reasonably advanced monkeys”… Well those students did a great job in creating a custom assembly board to hold all of the connections of both FRDM-K66F and FRDM-KL25Z boards in a central and organized way, adding 6 ultrasonic sensors, IR ground sensors and encoders to name just a few of the added features to this racecar. They mounted a large LED Array (they call it the “LED banana”) to help with light management and comprehensively documented the logic and algorithms for managing the signal from the Pixy2 camera and a 2nd line camera mounted just above it.
The Knight Rider Kitty car from AGH University in Poland is the 3rd performer of this challenge, using the Alamak chassis model developed for the NXP Cup EMEA competition. They developed an array of 3D printed mechanical improvement to the vehicle including steering, camera mount, bumper along with new circuitry to manage NXP’s MKV58 and MKL25Z MCUs, external LEDs a possible 2nd line camera and laser sensors. AGH University is one of the steadiest participants of the NXP Cup EMEA over the years and has been using its passed experience to produce another very interesting and well-developed autonomous car.
Coming up Next
The creativity of the teams engaged in this challenge demonstrate the pool of talent that our schools and universities are preparing to enter the engineering industry in EMEA. With focus on innovation, discipline and grit to deliver, despite the difficult situation we have experienced in this early part of 2020, shows that the future is bright for those students joining the NXP Cup Challenge.
The NXP Cup EMEA continues for the 2021 season and enrollments are already on the rise as students from this “interrupted season” take the chance, once more, to improve their racecars and hold a chance to show the world their achievement in the first quarter of 2021. Join the NXP Cup EMEA by signing up or join the community to learn more about next seasons’ challenge.