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This paper describes how a team of undergraduate volunteers from California Institute of Technology (Caltech) developed a robotic vehicle that can navigate completely autonomously through the Mojave Desert. Called Alice, the vehicle was Caltech's entry to the 2005 DARPA Grand Challenge which aimed to generate the technology needed to build and program an unmanned ground vehicle through 130 miles of difficult terrain completely autonomously in under ten hours. Although Alice failed to win the competition, she did succeed in her original purpose of teaching a new generation of students about engineering, how to apply theory to the real world, how to debug and deal with shortcomings and schedules, and most importantly, how to work as a team on a complex problem.
Date of Publication: June 2006