Remote/Travel Team Participation

Beaver Works Summer Institute (BWSI) RACECAR Remote/Travel Team Participation

Guidelines and Recommendations

Four remote teams, including three from Mexico and one from Canada, completed the BWSI 2018 RACECAR program and one from Nauset Massachusetts completed the BWSI 2019 Unmanned Air System – Synthetic Aperture Radar program. The teams were able to follow the same curriculum as the MIT class, travel to Cambridge, and successfully participate as peers in the final challenge events at MIT. On the basis of their experiences, we have formulated guidelines and recommendations for teams who might be interested in participating remotely.  This option may be beneficial to international schools; and to schools contemplating adopting or offering the program in their own curriculum, increasing the number of opportunities for their students to participate in the program.  We assume a certain level of familiarity with the overall program and curriculum in particular, in the descriptions below. It may also be helpful to review the BWSI Program Brochure and Admission Procedures materials for additional background and context.

Overview

Your students can be prepared to participate in the BWSI course by completing the prerequisite online content we provide and require of all prospective applicants. When the summer program begins, students are able to follow along with the summer program “live” by using the same content we teach in our classroom. For the RACECAR course the final Grand Prix track layout and design of special features intended to technically challenge and demonstrate the student teams’ skills is revealed at the start of the fourth week of the RACECAR course. The entire fourth week is a “build week” during which the teams design, build, integrate, and test their systems and component implementations. We have instructors, mentors, and coaches available to support teams throughout the process by answering and asking questions, observing team interactions, and offering helpful tips (without providing solutions). Remote teams are also welcome to attend during this week to build their implementation, interact with other students, observe other teams, and benefit from our support. All teams participate in the weekend Final Challenge Demonstration events.

Online Preparation

New and updated content is made available during January in our online course that all prospective students are required to complete for admission or participation in the summer program.  The course is organized into topical modules that cover technical subjects of interest and then develop skills needed to work on the BWSI programs.  The course is intended to ensure all students arrive with a common baseline set of skills and exposure to technical topics that we can build upon in the summer program.

The online content enables students to begin the learning process. For the RACECAR course instructions are provided to install, operate, and program a model RACECAR in a simulated environment using the same tools and interfaces as the physical vehicle.  We include sensor simulations and model “worlds” of previous BWSI final challenge tracks and others that have been used in MIT courses.

Prior course content, much of which will be reused remains available for access by anyone with registered credentials at http://bwsix.mit.edu/.  We work through single designated points of contact at each school to set up and verify access to this site for local instructors and individual students.

Summer Program Curriculum

Once the summer program begins, we release the in-class content as it is delivered in the classroom. To facilitate that process in BWSI 2017, we created a BWSI RACECAR 2017 module in our online course and updated and added links to the content for lectures, labs, and demonstration challenges in the weekly topic sections, each day.  This was the same mechanism used to release the content to the MIT BWSI students to ensure everyone whether local or remote, received identical material at the same time.  The content is primarily in the form of links to streaming and recorded lectures, lecture slides and notes, hands-on lab handouts, sample code snippets, and end-of-week challenge descriptions from the 2017 program, which are still available for reference.

It is essential that remote/travel teams have local instructional and mentoring support for the preliminary on-line preparation, and hardware/software build/installation process, especially during the summer program itself. We recommend that prospective instructors and mentors go through the online course themselves and/or are otherwise prepared to support their students in understanding the content. Some schools have established relationships with MIT or a local university with departments that have students who may be recruited for internships as effective in-class or afterschool mentors for their teams.

Build Week and Final Event Participation

We recommend teams arrive at least three days before the Final Challenge event and are welcome to spend the entire “build week” with us. Early arrival ensures teams have sufficient time and opportunity to become acclimated, verify their hardware operation, and build/design/test their software implementation against the specific technical challenges under representative conditions that they will encounter in the final event. This week is very intensive for all teams, and while we generally have an instructor, mentor, or coach for every team, demands on their time and attention are high.

Guidelines and Requirements

These requirements are intended to ensure that all teams have the same working hardware configuration, software architecture with required capabilities, and level of preparedness needed to succeed in the build week and Final Challenge event.

Your student team(s) must build or buy a RACECAR that matches specifications of the summer program vehicle.  Those specifications (bill of materials, laser cutting files, and assembly guide) are publicly available and the parts cost of a typical build is approximately $5000.  Assembly time varies with experience but is typically on the order of 8 hours for someone with basic mechanical and soldering skills using the guide we provide.

The proper operation of the vehicle must be demonstrated using the baseline software provided for the summer program before arriving at MIT. We can only provide very limited diagnostic and repair support for vehicles.  We recommend teams bring a selected set of spare parts and a tool kit with them that reflects on their past experience building, operating, and maintaining their own RACECAR.

Logistics

Housing must be arranged for your students.  Area hotels are available and home stay options may be possible if family relatives or sponsors live in the local area.  We can provide no support for finding or making such arrangements or any transportation required to attend the program for remote/travel teams.

For international teams from institutions who participate in the MIT MISTI program, you may already have a MISTI program point of contact who could help with logistics and possibly recruit mentors from the MIT community to support your teams.

 

We do not arrange for visas required for travel, but can supply or sign documentation that explains the purpose for the trip.