By Jerome Aliotta, GVSC Public Affairs

ROCHESTER, Mich.--On a rain-soaked morning here at Oakland University, robotics officials evaluated student teams on how well they remotely navigated their robots between a set of chalked lines on a tall grass field featuring uneven terrain and obstacles designed to present real-world driving challenges.

More than 50 competing teams of programmers from across the globe converged on OU's campus June 7-10 for the 27th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC), sponsored by the U.S. Army Ground Vehicle Systems Center (GVSC) and the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International.

IGVC requires university-level students to design and build robots that must complete tasks similar to duties performed by unmanned ground systems in theater with the intent of keeping Soldiers out of harm's way.

In addition to the navigational challenge and autonomous course, this year IGCV organizers upped the ante, adding for the first time a cyber challenge.

"This is what we're trying to accomplish in the real robotics world," said Bernie Theisen, GVSC autonomous ground resupply program manager. "Electronic warfare is a critical threat to military operations, so cyber resiliency features are indicative of what we need in the robotics community."

Theisen said the Army is trying to build a core technology of autonomy and
robotics in the United States. "We need people to work for the military on these projects, so our country can maintain its lead in the robotic and autonomous domain," Theisen said.

For students, who hail from as far away as Japan, India, Mexico, along with the U.S., the IGCV event is like on-the-job training for those wanting to pursue Army science and technology careers.

"They get to experience what it would be like to be a part of a team project building a whole system," Theisen said. "Teams consist of electrical and mechanical engineers, computer scientists, and some of them even have business majors to help get sponsors and develop their products."

Industry representatives--from southeast Michigan's automotive, defense, AI and other technology sectors--look forward to IGCV because it's a chance for them to evaluate how students hold up to working on real-world type projects.
"There are a lot of them here trying to recruit students," Theisen said.

Congratulations to the top finishers in the IGVC 2019:

IGVC Spec I:
1st Place: Manipal Institute of Technology
2nd Place: IIT Kanpur
3rd Place: 3-way tie - Georgia Institute of Technology - Boise State University - IIT Madras

IGVC Spec II:
1st Place: Lawrence Technological University
2nd Place: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
3rd Place: Bob Jones University

Douglas Halleaux, GVSC Public Affairs, contributed to this story.