DARPA Challenge Coming to HMS

Atlas, developed by Boston Dynamics, is one of the robots that will be competing at Homestead-Miami Speedway on December 20-21, during the DARPA Robotics Challenge at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The robot is six-foot-two, weighs 290 pounds and contains 28 hydraulic joints (photo courtesy: DARPA)


Time to add one more world-class event to the list of activities held at Homestead-Miami Speedway; a list that includes Ford Championship Weekend featuring NASCAR’s best (Nov. 14-16, 2014). The speedway will host the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials this Friday and Saturday (December 20-21).

The event is free and open to the public. Interested spectators are encouraged to visit

The DRC was conceived after the Fukushima (Japan) nuclear meltdown, when turning a valve in the reactor buildings might have prevented catastrophe.

As DARPA explained when it announced the teams coming to South Florida: “Disasters are unpredictable in their manifestation and effects, so the type of robots DARPA envisions to aid in these situations must be adaptable. The DRC Trials tasks require robots to demonstrate that they can move from a sanctuary area to a danger zone and then work effectively once there. All eight of the tasks to be tested are deemed equally necessary.”

Spectators can observe as 17 teams and their robots compete in eight simulated disaster response scenarios during the first of two physical demonstrations. Teams will be tested on the capabilities that would enable them to provide assistance in future natural and man-made disasters. The public is welcome to watch the action from Pit Road seating above the very garages that house NASCAR champions during Ford Championship Weekend.

“We are pleased to welcome DARPA, each of the competing teams, and everyone associated with this unique competition,” said Homestead-Miami Speedway President Matthew Becherer.  “We take pride in the variety of events that we host, and this one is special given its importance and the potential technological payoff that would benefit mankind.”

The teams are throughout the U.S., South Korea, Japan and China.  Two teams are from NASA – one from its Jet Propulsion Labs and another from the Johnson Space Center, while six colleges are represented – MIT, Drexel University, Virginia Tech, Carnegie Mellon University, Worcester Polytechnic Institute and the University of Hong Kong. 

Each will be competing to qualify for the DRC finals and for the $2 million grand prize.

DARPA claims that it needs expertise from many domains and, thusly, didn’t want to preclude participation by any team based on limited resources. Accordingly, teams were selected based on various skills – both robotic hardware and software – and each has earned its way to Homestead via a slightly different path.  As a matter of fact, 13 teams are receiving funding, while four qualified utilizing only private funds.

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