One week to go - time to take stock. From Spaceward's point of view,
things are going well. Virtually all of the pieces are already in place
or quickly getting there. We've had a good amount of practice setting
up the racetrack, and we'll get time to practice it again just before
This would be a good time to make a little comparative study among
our three competitors; LaserMotive, USST and the Kansas City Space Pirates. The formulation of the power beaming problem (the range, and the fact
that the receiver is mobile) drove all the teams to use laser-based
systems, but beyond that, the teams are very different from each other.
Perhaps the most visible difference between the teams is not in
their technology, but in their backgrounds (and character). Since none
of them are newcomers, we know a thing or two about them:
====================================Kansas City Space Pirates (KCSP)
are our robotic-club hobbyists, except (guess what...) nothing about them says "amateur". Their engineering is superb, they have recruited a top-notch panel of consultants, they are consistently the most prepared team, perform the most detailed testings and rehearsals, and their attention to detail is unmatched. Team Captain and chief engineer is Brian Turner, and they are based in Kansas City, MO.
This is KCSP's third appearance at the games.
is our "industry" team, led by long time laser industry expert Dr. Jordin Kare
, and really almost doing this as a hobby.
Another of their hobbies is this
They are based in Seattle, and one look at their sponsor list makes it clear that they are a force to be reckoned with.
LaserMotive is in its second year at the Games, having made their debut in 2007.
is our university student team (Team Captain is Bill Voss, also from
Seattle, and the students are from the town of Saskatoon,
Saskatchewan), except that nothing about it is typical of a student
team - they are organized, highly professional, calm and collected -
and have outperformed all other teams in all previous competitions so
USST is the most experienced team at the games, having participated in all challenges since 2005.
Technically, the teams ended up spanning the gamut in practically
every trade-off in the design space: We have different laser
wavelengths, different PV technologies, different beam intensities,
different thermal designs, different tracking and aiming mechanisms...
I cannot yet give up specific information, but I can guarantee to
you that we have a very good race coming up. None of the teams is a
clear winner by any stretch of the imagination. All three are very
capable, and all three are shooting for the 5 m/s prize level.
Break-downs and other unforced errors notwithstanding, if the teams
get to fully exhaust their capabilities, it will be very interesting to
see which system ends up on top. Having invested two years and a lot of
personal funds into the development of their systems, I truly hope all
three make the prize threshold.
We will be able to divulge much more about the technical aspects of
the systems during the games, but until games day (11/4), some cards
need to remain face down. Maybe we'll some more information leak out
as the week progresses :)