ROCHESTER, Mich. Ac"a,! Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) and U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center Director Dr. Grace M. Bochenek addressed competitors at the 16th Annual International Ground Vehicle Competition hosted at Oakland University, Mich., during their opening remarks recently.

The event, founded by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, focuses on using robotic technologies of current interest in engineering and industry. IGVC tested the skills of 41 university teams that each designed and constructed an autonomous ground vehicle to compete in challenges such as negotiating an obstacle course and navigating global positioning system waypoints.

Levin recently returned from a trip to Afghanistan where he witnessed U.S. Soldiers using unmanned vehicles. "I have seen the robots in operation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and they're performing miracles," he told students, their team mentors and spectators. "That means all of you can be contributing to that miraculous effort and movement to unmanned vehicles in the future."

"This country is divided when it comes to policy regarding issues in Iraq, but where our country is united is where it comes to supporting our men and women in uniform," Levin continued. "Any time you can save the life of one of these extraordinarily brave men and women, you are truly doing something that is a blessed activity."

Robotics are key to the United States and the Department of Defense. "The Department of Defense has 5,000 robots in the field, and that number will increase to 10,000 by the end of the year," Bochenek explained. "We've created the Joint Center for Robotics here in Michigan. That center is the synergy for the research, development, engineering, acquisition, logistics and support for every one of the robots we put in the theater today."

TARDEC engineers and scientists served as mentors, advocates and judges for the annual competition. They spoke with most of the teams, sharing information about unique engineering and research opportunities at TARDEC, other Michigan organizations and within the Department of Defense's laboratories.

"I encourage you to stay involved with your robotics studies and to become a part of that synergy and help us change the future. Help the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army make robots a bigger reality in warfighting so we can better protect our Soldiers when we send them into harm's way," Bochenek concluded.

IGVC offers a design experience that is at the cutting edge of engineering education. It is multidisciplinary, theory-based, hands-on, team implemented, outcome assessed and based on product realization. The competition encompasses the very latest technologies that will, ultimately, impact industrial development and technology integration in commercial products.
The technologies involved in the IGVC are those of today's emerging and burgeoning $1 billion industry. Industry analysts predict that robotics will become a $10 billion industry over the next decade.

"TARDEC has a long-term commitment to the IGVC competition and will continue to do so for many years to come," Bochenek forecasted. "It's a wellspring of talent for our future workforce."