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It was a final project full of fun, experimentation and laughter. Seven students in Dr. Ben Clark’s AI for Robotics class put weeks worth of research into determining if three robots could “play” a game of hide and seek effectively on May 4.

The students organized in three teams – Bryce Greene, Allison Walker and Brigitte Turner worked together to program the robot they named Kenan Jr (after another Computer Science faculty member Dr. Kenan Casey). Their robot’s objective was to “seek” the other two robots that were “hiding.” Decked out with two heart shaped stickers at its back, Kenan Jr. and the other robots, Baymacs and R0B, are Create® 3 robots, educational versions of the popular household vacuum appliance, the Roomba.

Dallas Yarnell and Sean Janiec worked on R0B and were part of the mapping team, which determined the area where the robots could hide. “We used a technique called SLAM (Simultaneous, Localization and Mapping). It basically helps the robots play hide and seek,” Yarnell said. Students Lou Joseph and Addison Adcock were on the path planning team and were responsible for Baymacs.

As the robots moved, they produced a mechanical whirring sound on the third floor of the Brown-Kopel Business building. The students rearranged the lobby furniture to give Baymacs and R0B more nooks and crannies to hide. Kenan Jr. equipped with a camera on top slowly moved trying to detect one of the 3-D printed stop-signs placed on Baymacs and R0B. This was done using automatic object detection software, a type of Artificial Intelligence.

The teams had to work together to troubleshoot technical problems including checking the camera on Kenan Jr. to make sure it detected objects and helping it make a U-turn. In the control room, Greene and Walker monitored Kenan Jr. while Turner served as Kenan Jr.’s driver. “I wish you could see this,” Walker said to Turner, whose back faced the large screen that displayed Kenan Jr.’s perspective on the floor. “This is so fun.”

After a few starts and stops, the students got the robots to detect one another. “This project has been successful,” Clark told his students. Later he comments that “a lot of work has gone into getting these robots moving, mapping, and looking. I think one of the major wins is the understanding of how many things have to work together for robots to do such a coordinated activity. The semester has been a blast working with the students to learn not just these tools but how to learn to use new tools in general.” Clark is FHU’s director of computer science and digital innovation.

“I think we learned the importance of a trial run,” Greene said. “And that there are some solutions that are already out there that are good to use and in some situations, you need to build the solutions yourself. But we learned a lot and had some laughs.”

The mission of Freed-Hardeman University is to help students develop their God-given talents for His glory by empowering them with an education that integrates Christian faith, scholarship and service. With locations in Henderson and Memphis, FHU offers associates, bachelor’s, master’s, specialist and doctoral degrees.