Building the e4-Rover Mars Challenge

The EclipseCon e4-Rover Mars Challenge is coming together very nicely. It is turning out to be an impressive use of Eclipse technology, including e4, Equinox and Equinox in the Cloud. I had the chance to interview Jeff Norris from NASA and Boris Bokowski an e4 and Platform committer.  I asked them to described the e4-Rover architecture; you can listen to the conversation here.

For those that rather read than listen, here is a summary:

  • A LEGO Mindstorm robot will be setup in an arena at EclispeCon.  There will be 4 RFID tags around the arena and two RFID readers on the robot.   The goal is to drive the robot around the arena to different tags, to collect points.
  • The Robot will be controlled by a local  server application based on Equinox running on a Mac laptop located next to the arena.
  • The local Equinox application will communicate with another Equinox based application hosted on Amazon EC2.  The Equinox application on EC2 receives and forwards commands from an e4 client that is to be used by the players.  The Equinox application on EC2 receives a video stream from the arena, so players can control the robot from anywhere.  In fact, as a test I have driven the robot located in Los Angeles from Ottawa.   The EC2 based Equinox applications also manages a queue for players waiting to drive the robot and keeps track of the scoring.  The great thing about having this on EC2 is that it is fully load balanced and will easily scale up in case lots of people start playing.
  • The players will be using a desktop client built on e4.  One of the main goals of the contest is to introduce developers to e4.  The client will consist of a set of views that show the video image, provide controls to drive the robot, scoring information and the player queue.  Besides collecting points during the game, players are also asked to enhance the client to make it look nicer and make it easier to collect more points.  Below is a screenshot of the client.  The intention is to have the client code available in the next couple of days.

Jeff and Boris do a much better job of explaining the architecture, so give it a listen.

We also have been lucky enough to get some great prizes for the winners.   Lego has donated two Mindstorm NXT 2.0 robotic sets, Amazon has donated credits for AWS and NASA and the Eclipse Foundation will help organize a trip for one person to visit the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab in Los Angeles.  It should be lots of fun.

See you at EclipseCon.

One Response to Building the e4-Rover Mars Challenge

  1. I’m excited to play with this!

    It reminds me of the time I participated in the FIRST robotics competition in high school.

    http://www.usfirst.org/

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