UC Davis Wins 2019 Natcar Competition

Natcar Award

By Jermiah Baxter

We are proud to announce that on Saturday, May 11, at the UC Davis Arc Ballrooms, The Fast Red Car -- a UC Davis team consisting of Daniel Burr, William Gentry and Jimmy Hoang -- narrowly defeated No Compromise, another UC Davis team consisting of Raul Oliva, Mark Posner and Yueming Zhou, winning the 26th annual Natcar competition.

The two UC Davis teams secured 1st and 2nd place, respectively; UC Berkeley teams finished 3rd, 4th and 5th. Teams for UC San Diego and UC Santa Barbara also competed in the event this year. In an interview, Jimmy and Daniel explained that they were doing Natcar as their senior design project. Asked what valuable experience they gained from the experience, Jimmy said, “We did 3D printing, soldering, and coding, and just building the car in general.” As for his career plans, he said, “I’m gonna be here for another year so hopefully I get to figure it out . . . Hopefully I get a good job.” Daniel simply said that he hasn’t decided yet. Comprising one of the teams representing UC Berkeley, Harrison, Rush and Olivia said that they knew a lot going in, and that for these seniors, participating in Natcar was mostly for fun. Harrison’s next step is working as a controls engineer, whereas Rush and Olivia are both headed on to grad school. Please join us in congratulating and celebrating the achievement of the Natcar teams.

Natcar is a student design competition created in 1994 by Prof. Richard Spencer and engineers from National Semiconductor. Lance Halsted is the current instructor of this popular ECE Senior Design Project. When asked his thoughts on our win, he said tongue-in-cheek that “it’s always a great achievement when we can beat Berkeley,” going on to praise the students, saying, “I’m very proud of our teams. They did a great job and put in a lot of hard work.” Texas Instruments (TI) has been sponsoring the competition since National Semiconductor was acquired by TI in 2011, and UC Berkeley has been a longtime partner in the event. Other UC campuses also regularly participate in this competition, the final installation of which is generally held at UC Davis in May, and many schools come to compete. For the event, teams design, build and race autonomous vehicles on a track marked by 1″-wide white tape. Originally, there was a wire carrying a 75 kHz sinusoidal signal under the tape and many teams sensed the magnetic field around the wire. Since 2016, the wire under the tape is no longer provided and the sensing must be done optically. Going forward, Lance “would like to see [Natcar] evolve from simple line following to more complicated autonomous driving–more realistic.” Regarding his goals for the project, he says, “we want the students to get the most relevant experience possible for when they go out into the industry.” One of Lance’s favorite parts of the competition is the relationship between teams and the progress students can be seen making throughout the year: “We have a long friendship with the Berkeley team . . . so it’s always great to see them and just renew our friendship . . . and see what the students have accomplished over the year.” The contest is intended for undergraduate students, but teams consisting of graduate students, high-school students or students who have competed in a previous Natcar may attend the competition, although they compete in a separate division.

To learn more about NATCAR, please click HERE.

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