SparkFun Gears Up for Fourth Autonomous Vehicle Competition

SparkFun Electronics, a provider of parts, knowledge and passion for electronics creation, will host its fourth annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition (AVC). Each year at the AVC, teams from all over the world descend on SparkFun's headquarters for a cutthroat race of home-built ground and aerial vehicles around the building. This year promises to be the biggest and best competition yet, so start your engines, cross your fingers, and get ready to make it rain robotic glory all over SparkFun's parking lot.

SparkFun's signature event, which runs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and is free and open to spectators, celebrates ingenuity, inventiveness and good-natured robotic competition. The requirements are relatively simple: Teams must provide a home-built vehicle that will circumnavigate SparkFun's building without any human intervention. This year's competition will host a record-breaking 50 teams, with entrants competing in ground and aerial categories for a grand prize of $1,000. SparkFun also will offer smaller prizes in categories such as Engineer's Choice, for the best-designed vehicle, and the Kill Switch Award, for the most dangerous.

2011's AVC drew almost 700 spectators, and this year's crowd is expected to surpass previous records. Anyone interested is encouraged to attend; the free, family-friendly event promises to be a great summer day full of camaraderie, hackery, tours and, if we're lucky, a robot or two in the lake.

This year, SparkFun's Department of Education is also opening up a section of the AVC just for kids. Bring a robot to the AVC and SparkFun will help young participants run the courses -- we will have an 8x8-foot maze, as well as a track to race on. SparkFun will also provide a limited number of the brand new ProtoSnap MiniBots and computers, so kids can play with them and get to run a bot, even if they don't have one at home. The AVC is a fun way to get kids' curiosity piqued, and offers a hands-on introduction to robotics.

"We like robots. A lot. We've also noticed that kids love robots. So we got to thinking that with the AVC approaching, we need more kids building and hacking robots," said Jeff Branson, SparkFun's educational outreach coordinator.

To read the competition rules and regulations, visit:

To register as a spectator for the event, or to register kids for the robot hacking station, visit:

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