Kettering University students with their awards from the 2023 IGVC.

The students on Kettering’s Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) team felt stressed ahead of the annual competition, but their hard work earned them a third-place finish.Kettering University students working on their Intelligent Ground Vehicle.

The team, which consisted of the undergraduate and graduate-level Introduction to Autonomous Driving (CE-451 and CE-651) classes, competed June 2-5 at the 30th Annual IGVC at Oakland University in Rochester. It finished third in the Self-Drive Challenge and fourth in the Self-Drive Design/Presentation. Six teams participated in these challenges.

“I felt happy with the results because ultimately, my class spent about seven weeks working on this car compared to other colleges who had a lot more time than us,” said Nicholas Switalski (’24, Computer Engineering), who worked on the perceptions group. 

Because the Kettering team consists of two classes, different students participate each year versus other schools, whose teams consist of the same students each year. 

Students design, develop, document, test and sell systems engineering projects for the competition. IGVC features two challenges: the AutoNav Challenge and the Self-Drive Challenge. This was the third year Kettering competed in the Self-Drive Challenge in which competitors adapted U.S. Army–provided software to develop an autonomous golf cart.

“Our vehicle was the only system at the competition that uses a cutting-edge autonomy layer,” said Co-Captain Henry Grasman (’24, Computer Engineering). “A lot of teams were able to gain points with simpler systems but would ultimately run into roadblocks attempting to add complexity. Our struggle was working with such a complex system from the start, especially with such a short timeline.”

Switalski said learning the software was the team’s biggest challenge, followed by figuring out what improvements to make.

Grasman and Switalski said teamwork and collaboration were critical for the class to finish the project.

“Early on, our sub-teams worked mostly independently with my group attempting to make the vehicle functional,” Grasman said. “I learned quickly that working on something so advanced would not be possible without the close collaboration of the entire team.”

He said this class made him more confident in his problem-solving skills.

Switalski agreed, adding, “The most important skill I learned was troubleshooting. Through figuring out what software worked from previous years to fixing the new implementations and figuring out how to make the process faster. Troubleshooting is an essential quality companies look for in any industry.”