“Seeing the progress and to see we’re creating an autonomous vehicle. Wow, that’s something really fun. That’s the coolest part for me.”
Kettering University students will design, develop, document, test and sell systems engineering projects as part of the annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IVGC) at Oakland University.
The competition, which takes place June 4-7, features two challenges — the AutoNav Challenge and the Self Drive Challenge. While this is the IVGC’s 28th year, it is the first time Kettering will compete as one of three new schools selected to participate by the U.S. Army Combat Capability Development Center Ground Vehicle Systems Center (USACCDCGVSC)
Kettering is one of seven teams competing in the Self Drive Challenge in which they adapt Army-provided software to develop an autonomous golf cart.
With 13 students on the Kettering team, Bulldog has been working on its vehicle since Fall 2019. Students can participate as part of completing their on-campus thesis. They can also work in the lab of team advisor Dr. Mehrdad Zadeh for their Co-op. Or, they can join the team for fun.
“It’s good visibility for Kettering University to show we have the capabilities, and our students are very capable of turning a golf cart into an autonomous shuttle,” Zadeh said.
Zeus Polanco-Salgado (’24, CS) joined the team when he began working in Zadeh’s lab for his Co-op during the 2021 Winter Term.
He worked on creating a model for object detection during the competition, including signs, potholes and mannequins to represent real people. He also helped with the communication between different programs and operating systems.
“I got involved because I study computer science, and I’m interested in software,” Polanco-Salgado said. “At Kettering, the strongest program is Mechanical Engineering, so everything is almost related to cars and I wanted to get involved with that.”
He said he’s enjoyed working on the projects and is picking up new skills he can use elsewhere.
Tanisha Francis (’25, CE) joined the team this term. She also is working in Zadeh’s lab for her Co-op. She has been tasked with helping make sure the cart stays on the track.
“We have a map generator, so it can run in accordance to wherever we are,” she said.
Like Polanco-Salgado, Francis has been enjoying the project.
“It’s been a lot of work, but it really pays off when you can see the progress being made,” she said. “… Seeing the progress and to see we’re creating an autonomous vehicle. Wow, that’s something really fun. That’s the coolest part for me.”
In addition to the technical skills, Francis said they’ve learned other soft skills too, such as teamwork.
“We’re all working together,” she said.
Zadeh said he’s pleased with the team’s progress, and whatever the result of the competition, he knows the students learned a lot.
“We’ve got some progress, but there are a lot of issues we have to come up with resolutions for, but we are working hard,” he said.