March 18, 2011

Senior Project Kickoff

With the school year winding to a close, it is time for me to start my Senior Project. This project is of the student's choice (in this instance, mine), but it must be approved by a project mentor and the committee. I have the whole month of May off of school to work on this project, but there is no harm starting now!

People can do any of many things for their project. Some people take internships, others write research papers, and there are also those people who choose to spend their time running (likely in circles).

The Google Car
Me, I've chosen to do something a bit different. I am going to build an artificially intelligent car. While the car won't be as cool as Google's, it will be able to drive around without crashing into objects. There are many ways to accomplish this, from easy to extremely complex. The Roomba, for instance, is an unintelligent vacuum cleaner that works by running around and hitting things. When it hits an object, it knows it cannot continue forward, and thus goes elsewhere. On the extreme side of the spectrum is the Google Car. This car works by using a LIDAR, ultrasonic sensors, speedometers, GPS, cameras, and many more components. It creates a virtual image of its environment, combined with current GPS tracking technology, to figure out where it needs to go and how to get there.

So which version of intelligence am I going to implement? Seeing how I only have a couple months to teach myself about using artificial intelligence to drive a car, and then build that car, I am going for the most logical implementation: Google Car 2.0. I'm kidding, that would take at least twice as long as I've got. My plan is to create a car that uses one or more sensors to drive around. The car's purpose? Sadly, it won't be anything more than moving randomly and avoiding collisions for as long as the battery lasts. But just wait and see, the car will be plenty exciting.

So what is the purpose of this blog? Every Senior Project must be accompanied by its certified Senior Project Journal. As I tend to have bad handwriting, and you can't print out videos, I figured I would write my journal on a blog. Now, whether this blog turns into a brand sparklingly new precedent for the greater Senior Project community, or becomes a big flop with all of the entries occurring the week before my presentation, that is yet to be seen.

But what I do know is that until the flop-date, there will be some juicy blog posts that will suddenly appear, including (but not limited to):
  • Official informal plan of what I will accomplish, and how that will be accomplished
  • Some informational articles talking about what I have learned and how that applies to this project
  • How to disassemble your car (hopefully without breaking it)
  • What it is like to open up a box of parts
And, some time before May, I hope to get get an interview with an expert in artificial intelligent cars, to both enlighten me and enlighten whomever is spending their daylight hours reading these pixels.

So until next time, stay classy!

Next: Senior Project: The Plan