In partnership with Draper Laboratory, Olin College in Needham, Massachusetts is in its second year of a course that provides its engineering students unparalleled experience in multiple sub-fields of their college's main discipline. Lasting both semesters, the program splits students into groups of a handful of students each, with faculty advisors assigned to them as well.
Draper received a group of five senior students this year to revamp a standard John Deere Gator utility vehicle for automated and remote-operated functioning in the field. The Gator XUV can now identify trails and maneuver around obstacles. Beginning with their college campus' car lanes, the team of students soon put the customized equipment to the test in forest areas, where the vehicle had to operate in places GPS was not available.
As a result, the team has the opportunity to gain experience in artificial intelligence, sensor systems, and rapid computation. The students' work has been a boon for the consulting engineering firms, attested to by Draper's autonomous systems chief, Troy B. Jones.
He stated that “I get to work with excellent students and they provide me innovative ideas and demonstrations that our company would otherwise not have the bandwidth to pursue. Besides all that – it’s fun!”