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For the discussion of Sparkfun events such as Free Day, Antimov, AVC, etc.
By fll-freak

In other competitions I have been associated with, the competition directors would take questions via email and reply (to those worth replying to) in an open forum. This allowed a simple method to ask questions and that information not to be private but to be shared by all participants.

I would suggest you open an email address ( comes to mind) to handle AVC related questions. That email address would be read by someone who can speak authoritatively about the competition. They would answer not by direct return email, but rather via a read-only thread on this Forum. That thread would then end up becoming the addendum to the rules as well as a FAQ of sorts.

As an example, I have a few questions/comments for next year's AVC:
1) Will there be one? (Please say yes, I am investing heavily in equipment...)
2) Will it be about the same time of year?
3) What is the estimated height of your building? (To aid in determining GPS error due to building masking.)
4) I would suggest a maximum kinetic energy (1/2*m*v^2) for safety reasons. Videos of those propeller driven planes scares the pants of me!
5) I would also suggest a kill switch for ground vehicles over a given kinetic energy. 30 pounds at 1/4 mile per hour will cause less damage than 1 pound at 2 miles per hour.
6) When you say no environmental markers, would that include a DGPS base station sending out corrections over ZigBee or the like? If a private DGPS base station is not allowed, how about public DGPS?
7) Did your barrels come red or did you paint them? If you painted them, do you have the brand and color of the paint you used? If you did not, where did you buy them?
By jessejay356
I'm not connected with SparkFun, but I can make some educated guesses about your questions.

1) There are people who do answer questions if you know who to ask. If you signup, you will get an email from someone at sparkfun with more contest details. And they will tell you not to do something if you get carried away... with something like 100mph Traxxas XO-1. Hello Pete ;)
I would say this years entries filled up quickly, there is still a waiting list for 2012 last I knew. So, I would not count on getting in. You will need some luck.

2) I'm sure there will be. I would think it would be in about a year. The weather is much better this time of year, then April!

3) There is issues with GPS on some sides of the building based on what I've heard. It's 2 stories tall.

4+5) How would you enforce this? So, I could maybe go 10mph for a given bot size, but not 12mph.. unfair. There is this in the rules..
Kill switches are required for vehicles over 30 pounds, to be demonstrated to the judges on race day. I'm waiting for someone to try to enter a full size car. The might change the rules then. Google maybe?

6) In previous years the rule was no base stations. So, this would include ZigBee. This has been in the rules since the beginning, but it's not as clear this year.

7) They look painted to me
By fll-freak
I appreciate the answers.

I still hope to have an official method for asking and getting answers to questions.

I am by no means ready for 2012. My eyes are set on 2013 or even 2014.

Masking of GPS satellites will be an issue that close to a building. Almost 1/2 the satellites may be absent giving a very poor solution. From the pictures it was simple to see its a two story building, but it is not easy to determine the height. Are these floors industrial height "high bay" or commercial or residential height? Based on that answer the building could be twice as high.

As for the kinetic energy issue, I am something of a safety freak. I work on systems all day long that could kill the operator in the blink of an eye. When I see those videos of planes flying into the crowd, I just shudder. I find it amazing that the SFE insurance company would accept this risk. But putting a limit on kinetic energy would not be hard. Just measure the weight and top speed. Of course this does not solve the issue of spinning blades of death on the front of a plane.

If base stations are not allowed, then by extension DGPS using public broadcasts should not be allowed and by even further extension GPS should not be allowed as they use ground stations to task the satellites. I know it is absurd, but how do you draw the line. Could I have a private DGPS base station broadcasting an RF signal and put it a mile away? How about 100 miles? Why would that be not legal when a public broadcast at that distance would be? Again I think I understand the intent of the rules, but it is nice to have set boundaries that one can limit the "thinking outside the box".

It is unfortunate that the AVC communication to 2012 participants is not public. I am not accusing SFE of hiding information or being secretive. I am just sad that the rest of us can't live vicariously through that information.

Again I hope that SFE develops an open and public channel of communication to service AVC.
By jessejay356
In previous years they talked about not allowing ground stations. And I thought the same thing about GPS as you. But, it seems the intention was all your computing power was on the bot itself. The rules are different this year, just saying no human is allow to send commands to your bot. So, the way I read the rules this year is you could do DGPS if you wanted, but a professional solution for that sure seems expensive.

As far as asking other questions in a public forum. I see what you are asking... but I don't see anyone else complaining. Your question about the building height... I don't see why they should be compelled to answer that. It's up to you as a competitor to figure that out. I'm sure people would start asking all sorts of questions, like what is slope of the pavement through the whole lot, what is the height/slope of the curbs, what RED was used to paint the barrels, how deep are potholes, why do a lose GPS between turns 2 and 3, etc etc.

I share your concerns about the Airplanes. I'm sure the AMA ( would not approve of the competition. At least they did outlaw quads, even though I had thought about entering one I think it's a good move. Quads can be dangerous, the crowd almost got a free hair cut last year as I understand. But they can be made pretty safe with guards on the blades. As far as ground vehicles... my top speed possible for my bot is 60+ mph and it weighs 6 pounds without electronics. Too much? IF they put up barricades around the areas where people are watching, I don't see any speed something like a 1/10th scale RC truck can do as being dangerous.
By fll-freak
Having the public reply forum for privately asked email questions does not mean SFE needs to answer the questions. How deep is the 7th pot hole after the second turn is not worth answering. It may be that an estimate for the height of the building may also be considered to be trivial and not worth answering. And funny you should mention it, but I did ask what color red the barrels are! But having the email address at least allows me to know that someone glanced at the question. With just questions in the comment section of the AVC rules page or this thread, I have zero guarantee that anyone looks at them (even if just to ignore it).

So as a test: If you are a representative from SFE with knowledge on AVC could you please post a reply to this thread and tell me I am nuts?
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