News From The KUKA Robotics Challenge: The First Submission Is In!

We’ve received the first submission for the KUKA Robotics Challenge, and deployed it on a real 6-DOF KUKA arm located at the KIT learning lab in Germany!

Earlier this month, we launched the KUKA Robotics Challenge in partnership with KUKA and the Learning Lab at KIT. The challenge is open to students enrolled in our Robotics Software Engineer Nanodegree program, and the winner receives a one-week, all-expenses-paid trip to Germany. They’ll visit the new KUKA Udacity Learning Lab at KIT, and attend the NVIDIA GTC Conference in Munich.

The Challenge

Participants in the KUKA Robotics Challenge will compete in a race to navigate a real KUKA iiwa robot, equipped with a Schunk gripper and Roboception camera, through a physical 2D maze. Their code will search for a path, and navigate the robot through the maze by commanding 2D positions and an orientation angle to get around corners in the fastest time possible.

The First Submission

Almost immediately after we announced the challenge, Nanodegree program student Chin-kiat Ong rushed to write a path planning algorithm designed to search blindly for a path inside the maze. He executed his path to navigate the robot by commanding 2D positions and an orientation angle. This then caused the grasping object to successfully move from a predefined start position to a goal one. All of this was done inside a simulator embedded in our Udacity Workspace — an online full GPU-driven Ubuntu desktop.

After validating his planner, he submitted his code to Germany through our Workspace, and waited for his video feed. He was then able to watch a video of his code running on a real-world industrial arm! With his submission now in, new challenge participants will have to beat his fastest time to win the challenge!

Chin-kiat Ong has generously shared a video of his submission. Watch below!

Challenge Phases

We are running the KUKA Robotics Challenge in two consecutive phases — the practice phase, followed by the contest phase. During the practice phase (which is currently running), students receive a configuration of start and goal states to practice with. Later, when we begin the contest phase, the configuration of start and goal states will be hidden. In the contest phase, every submission matters, because students are actively competing to win the prize. In both phases, participants aim to plan and move as fast as possible, and compare times via a leaderboard. When a participant submits their code, they get a video feed of the real-world KUKA arm in Germany.

What participants are saying

Through this challenge, students all across the globe are able to submit code and watch it run on a real-world robot. It’s an incredible opportunity, and we are already receiving tons of positive feedback from participants:

“This was completely fascinating! There’s something about writing code that impacts physical objects that makes it so much more visceral.”
“Excitement in solving a real world problem is very unique and challenging.”
“I felt the itch to finish this project even when I was sleeping, as it was fun and challenging to come up with different methods to solve the problem.”

Don’t miss your opportunity to enter the KUKA Robotics Challenge!

If you’re an aspiring roboticist, and you’re excited by the prospect of seeing your code run on a real robot in this challenge, you can enroll in our Robotics Software Engineer Nanodegree program today and take on the challenge! You will start by learning the fundamental of the Robot Operating System (ROS), and path planning algorithms. Then, you’ll write your code, test it, and submit it, at which point you’ll receive your video feed.

Imagine posting a video like that on your LinkedIn profile? Talk about impressing employers!