NASA has announced the Sample Return Robot Centennial Challenge is ON for June 2013. It is again a Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The rules appear to be basically the same as the June 2012 challenge. Prizes are similar but there are $500 awards for showing up with a competitive robot and another if the robot picks up the cached sample. I'll read the rules more carefully to see if anything else is changed.
Now I have to decide if I can do this on my own. The registration deadline is 7 January 2013 which gives me ten weeks to answer all the open questions.
I did order a Dagu Wild Thumper 6WD from the Robot Shop. Should be here next Monday.
I have two Pololu Simple Motor Controllers that I bought during a sale last November. I worked with a Pololu Maestro Servo Controller with my iRobot Create so have the basic Pololu control protocol working with a C++ Maestro class. In the last couple days I added a PololuSimple class, and a PololuBase class to generalize between the Maestro and new class, and can now talk to the Simple Controller. Those two controllers will go onto the Thumper. Their amperage rating is marginal for those motors but should be okay as long as there aren't any sudden reversals in direction.
I will probably use the Maestro to handle servos either for the picker or positioning cameras.
Oy vey! Lots to think about in a short period of time.
The more I looked at the Thumper the more I liked the idea of a swarm based on it as the platform. I added some additional analysis tonight to the swarm section and have at least one more page to finish on communications. I am focusing on a swarm of two searcher and five collector robots. There is a lot to recommend this, as some of the analysis shows, but it does introduce some complexity by requiring communications and replicating that many robots. A big advantage in using the Thumper is removing the basic locomotion capability from the design.