Since September 2016 I've been competing in the NASA Space Robotics Centennial Challenge (SRC). The challenge had a qualifying period and the final competition. I was one of the twenty teams from an international pool who qualified for the final competition. In mid-June the competitors ran their entries on a simulation in the cloud. The last few days, June 28 -30th capped the competition with a celebration at Space Center Houston, an education and entertainment facility next to the NASA Johnson Space Center.
On Thursday, the 29th, teams were invited to give presentations to the other teams, the NASA people who organized the challenge, and others. I used the opportunity to speak about my approach to the competition but also to raise the question of how an amateur roboticist, like myself, can make a meaningful contribution to robotics.
Two ways are through competitions like this and by contributing software to the Robot Operating System (ROS). There aren't always competitions to work and ROS contributions don't fulfill my desire. In part, ROS misses the mark because before adding a new, usable package, I need to develop something new and useful. Now perhaps there are existing topics that need software and ROS packaging but how do I learn about them?
And underlying issue for the amateur is knowing the state of the art in academia and industry. Often current academic material is behind paywalls. The amateur is also lacking in the background that lead to the current work.
One of the reasons for this entry, and a possible new blog with the title, is to see if a third way can be found or created.