Students Peter Fernandez, Simon Reid and Byer MacPherson built a “seek and destroy” robot and learned about artificial intelligence (AI) in the process. They were tasked with developing an Arduino vehicle that used multiple sensor input to detect, track, and approach a designated target. Nicknamed FRED after a character in the TV series Stargate, their robot used infrared and ultrasonic sensors on its head to look around and see if there was anything in front of it. FRED was completely autonomous, meaning it was not under human control. Instead, it used readings from its own sensors, sitting still until something entered its field of vision, then it tracked it with sensors and “shot” it with a laser pointer.
"This [was] an interesting project in the autonomous field of vehicles making decisions. You’re seeing that again and again on the news with Google car and all of those autonomous cars. It’s a pretty daunting project to turn signals into intelligent action,” said instructor Joe Marriott. The students said that working with AI taught them that not everything can be solved with just more programming, but requires more intelligent programming. The applications of this project are wide and varied. The Mars Rover is one example of an autonomous vehicle. “I gave them the components and… a working model that I built previously and I said ‘ok, make this one work the same as the other one.’ So from basically a box of parts they built this to what it is now,” Marriott said.