Lab 7: USAR
Lead TA's
Grading Sheet
Demo times

Special Thanks to NIST

Important Dates

Design Criteria
Additional Links

Important Dates:

Proposal Submission: March 20th, 2007
Proposal Evaluation: March 27th, 2007 (20:00h latest)
Prototype Selection: March 28th, 2007
USAR Demonstration: April 3rd, 2007
USAR Final (TBA): April 4th, 2007
Post USAR discussion:
(Poster & Self Evaluation due)
April 9th, 2007


This lab is intended to encourage investigation into different types of robot locomotion and control. We will do this within the theme of urban search and rescue.

Powerpoint presentation here

To get a better picture of this lab, please watch the following footage from a real urban search and rescue robot.

MPEG movie


Special Thanks to Center for Robotic Assited Search and Rescue
In light of recent events of the World Trade Center disaster and previous disasters such as the Oklahoma City bombing, the need for improved rescue efforts are growing. Hence, the Carnegie Urban Rescue Force (CURF) has funded Carnegie Mellon University's General Robotics class of Spring 2006 to develop a fleet of highly mobile, all-terrain and easy to use mobile robots to assit in Urban Search and Rescue efforts.
All contractor teams from Introduction to Robotics class of Spring 2007 are urged to submit their design proposal no later than March 20th, 2007 to be eligible for a full award for future work.
Upon approval of the proposals, each contractor will have one week to demonstrate a working prototype of their concept. A Prototype Review Board will then evaluate all working designs and select the ones that satisfy the evaluation requirements.
The selected prototypes will then move onto the final phase of the project.

Carnegie Urban Rescue Force Personnel

Dr. Howie Choset Robotics Researcher
Peggy Martin Special Assitant to Dr. Choset
Nick Armstrong Graduate Student
Jason Geist LEGOLand Consultant
Kate Killfoile Electrical & Computing Engineer
William McHenry Programming Consultant
Nick Heckman Electrical & Computing Engineer
Igor Avramovic Programming Consultant
Somchaya Liemhetcharat Programming Consultant
Si Yang Ng Programming Consultant
Michael Edelson Electrical & Computing Engineer
Karim Shaban Mechanical Engineer
Ally Naaktgeboren Programming Consultant
Donni Cober Mechanical Engineer
Alex Styler Programming Consultant
Felix Duvallet Electrical & Computing Engineer
Dewey Yang Programming Consultant
Joey Gannon Mechanical Engineer
Seunghwan Hong Programming Consultant
Jason Winters Programming Consultant
Suresh Nidhiry Electrical & Computing Engineer

Design Criteria:


Due to the nature of this project, CURF requires your robot to meet certain constraints.

Since the robot is intended to assist in search and rescue missions, the size of the robot is a very important design factor. Hence. the following dimensions must not be exceeded:

Width: 6.0"
Depth: 8.5"
Height: 6.0"

(NOTE: These dimensions are for your entire robot and DO include the vision system. Make sure you design your robot appropriately.)


All robots should be tele-operable from a remote command center consisting of a computer terminal and a video monitor. Using the Interactive C text interface, you can control your robot (which will be connected to the robot by a tether control line) by calling software functions stored on your robot. This control paradigm is often referred to as semi-autonomous, where the operator provides some high level control directing the robot in its autonomous actions. We have provided instructions and sample code with which you can control your robot using your keypad. We highly encourage you to use the code provided or any other method that you are familiar with how to tele-operate your robot.

Sample Code

Vision System:

We will be providing you with a camera and two flashlights with a LEGO base that you will need to mount onto your robot. For more information follow the link below to the vision system page.

Vision System
Vision Contract


All teams must use the pre-approved cable harness (ie. the telephone cable that interfaces with the handyboard)


All power must be on board the robot

Extra Parts

Each group will be supplied one extra LEGO motor to help in the manipulation. (This motor will not count towards your $50 extra parts budget.)

You are encouraged to pursue additional resources for LEGO parts, within a $50 spending limit (of your own money). See the class bboard or email the USAR team for approved "rare" parts and ordering info. Any common household stuff (like tape) and common hardware store items can be used as well. Basically this means anything that can be bought at a grocery store or hardware store, etc. For a list of acceptable parts follow the link below. Please note the list is not complete, if you are considering a part not on the list ask a member of the CURF staff.

Preapproved Extra Parts List


Design Proposal:

CURF requires your team to submit a design proposal outlining your plans for your USAR robot. This write-up should include a basic schematic, descriptions of how your robot works, especially any "special" features it will have.

You must explain how you plan for your robot to handle different obstacles like stairs, doors, broken furniture, rocks, cars, etc. The exact contents of this report and grading sheet are listed below. This proposal must be handed in by Tuesday, March 20 Note that at this point you do not have to demonstrate a working prototype.

Proposal Guideline
Proposal Grading
Sample Proposal
(note that the sample proposal is not the official guideline; it lacks evaluation of the metrics in alternative designs which is required)

Note: if an evaluator approves a feature in your proposal that violates one of the rules, unless you have written permission from head TA, your team still cannot use the feature.

Prototype Evaluation:

Your robot must pass several tests demonstrating basic mobility on Monday, March 26 and Tuesday, March 27 ). These tests include climbing a slope or moving over uneven terrain. Refer to the checkpointwebpage for more detials.

The TA who evaluated your proposal must be present for the check point evaluations.

Checkpoint Webpage

USAR Demonstration

On April 3rd your team will demonstrate their robot. Teams will be given 10 minutes to navigate a disaster scene. Points will be awarded for locating victims, identifying victims, and clearing rooms. For scoring details, refer to the grading sheet at the top of this page. The top teams will be invited to demonstrate their robot on April 4th

Poster and Self Evaluation

All teams must submit a poster of their USAR robot and team. The poster must measure 8.5" x 11" and contain a description of the robot, a picture of the robot, and a picture of all team members. Refer to link below for poster template.

For extra credit (upto 10 points) the CURF review board has decided to award additional points to teams who are willing to provide a description of their USAR experience: what they learned, what went well, and what did not go so well. Follow the second link below for the full announcement.

Poster Template
Self Evaluation

Additional Links

Peter Friedman's code

There are two versions of the code - the one provided with the example and the one that was modified by students previously to work with newer versions of IC and include provisions for serial timeouts. However, the newer version stores recieved chars to a char*, thus you need to pass a pointer around. Peter modified the newer code so that the integer returned by the serial_getchar() function actually returns the int of the char received instead.

The original code was:
int serial_getchar(int timeout, *char)

the new one is:
int serial_getchar(int timeout) which returns the int representation of the char recieved.

This has been tested with the version of IC on the laptops in the REL and both HyperTerminal as well as TerraTerm pro.