25 August 2008South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is partnering with the University of KwaZulu-Natal to automate two mini Baja Bugs to compete in the 2010 DARPA Grand Challenge, a driverless car race held in the USA.In a statement last month, the CSIR said that it would work with members from the university to equip the two vehicles with various sensors and positioning systems that will enable the vehicle to determine the characteristics of its environment and carry out the tasks it has been assigned.The DARPA Grand Challenge is a competition for driverless cars, sponsored by the United States’ Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which supports research that “bridges the gap between fundamental discoveries and their use for national security”.Mentoring and collaborationAccording to CSIR mechatronics and micro-manufacturing research manager Riaan Coetzee, teamwork and complementing of skills will be crucial for the successful completion of the projects.“This project is the ideal vehicle to expose younger engineers to collaboration with peers in different disciplines,” he said. “At the same time, it creates the opportunity for natural and productive mentoring.”CSIR researchers will focus on generating adequate awareness of the environment for the Baja Bugs by assembling the partial environments acquired by a variety of sensors. However, these are only the first steps towards autonomy, since the Baja Bugs will then still have to decide how to react to the environment.“We do not even known at this stage what format the DARPA challenge will have next time, but it is an exciting opportunity and challenge for the team,” said Coetzee. “It proves that research and development can be fun.”Developing skillsThe University of KwaZulu-Natal’s main focus will be to optimise GPS (global positioning system) strategies for accurate calculation of the Baja Bugs’ location.The university currently has an established programme for final-year students to semi-automate a buggy. The programme will be expanded through involvement in the project.The university can use this practical project for final year and postgraduate students, while the CSIR’s mechatronics and micro-manufacturing research group can further develop their skills in developing autonomous platforms.The first focus of the group will be to get the vehicle operational, after which the project will focus on analysis of the data before various sensors and actuators are installed.The design and implementation of software to control the buggy autonomously will then be added, the latter of which is the most complex area and poses a major challenge.“The success of the project does not lie with winning the DARPA challenge,” said Coetzee. “We want to attract and develop human and other resources through offering this exciting project.”The first DARPA Grand Challenge event was held in March 2004 and featured a 228-kilometre desert course. Fifteen autonomous ground vehicles attempted the course; none finished.In the 2005 Grand Challenge, four autonomous vehicles successfully completed a 212-kilometre desert route under the required 10-hour limit, and DARPA awarded a US$2-million prize to “Stanley” from Stanford University.SAinfo reporter Would you like to use this article in your publicationor on your website?See: Using SAinfo material
Gerrard Ross “Toys” Norton is one ofthree South Africans to have received thecoveted Victorian Cross for his braveryin the Second World War. The Buffalo Volunteer Rifles celebrates its135th anniversary in 2011.(Images: Shamin Chibba)MEDIA CONTACTS • Major Anthony StepCurator, BVR Military Museum+27 43 742 0677 or +27 82 749 4545RELATED ARTICLES• US funding boost for Wits museum• SA landscape display takes root in the UK• Siren of the SA skies• Saving priceless African history• Ninety years on golden wingsShamin ChibbaSouth Africa is a country not only built on gold and diamonds, but on the blood of many who strove to claim the land as theirs.Sadly, many relics from these battles are lost. However, there are a few people who have made it their purpose to preserve the precious artefacts that survived, and make them accessible to the public.One such place is the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles (BVR) Military Museum in East London. The museum is the city’s hidden gem; unknown to many yet containing a treasure trove of history.According to curator Major Anthony Step, the museum serves as a depository of war history that is preserved for future generations.“We house military memorabilia pertaining to those who served in all branches in all wars,” he said.For Step, the museum, located at BVR headquarters on Fleet Street, is a true representative of internal conflict in the country. It contains items from as far back as the Cape Frontier Wars, which started in the 18th century, to the liberation struggle of the latter 1900s.The museum is divided into four themes – the armed struggle, military artifacts, BVR regimental memorabilia and a depository of the commander units which were closed down in 2006.The museum houses old artillery, medals, guns, uniforms and photographs. However, Step did acknowledge that not everything could be salvaged.“This is the sad thing about conflict. Some things get lost and stolen – that is why it is important to have a museum,” he said.The East London Museum is currently assisting the BVR centre with items related to the armed struggle during apartheid. Though the headquarters are running out of space to house all these goods, Step said there is another base they would utilise in the future.Cherished relicsOne of Step’s prized items is a document containing the minutes of BVR meetings in 1876, its first year of existence. He also treasures the kilted uniform of the BVR’s Scottish Highland Company.Any visitor, though, would be startled at a well preserved letter sent to a Nazi officer, congratulating him on his efforts. It was signed by Adolf Hitler.Step has had to search for artifacts throughout the Eastern Cape to fill the museum.One such item is the cannon that greets visitors at the entrance to the headquarters. It was used by the British during the Napoleonic War before being brought to South Africa for the British campaign in 1834. The cannon was later found standing outside the Civic Centre in the small town of Keiskammahoek in the Eastern Cape province.The museum also has the two cannons that were previously displayed outside the East London City Hall. The BVR took them before they could be discarded by city officials. However, they are disintegrating slowly.“They need immediate restoration or they will be lost to rust and corrosion. The regiment does not have the funds to do so,” said Step.A consummate storytellerIt is not only the items themselves that inspire awe, but also the astounding knowledge that Step displays when he shows visitors around the room. He is a consummate storyteller, providing tidbits of information on almost every item in the complex.Step believes the value of an item is measured by the tales it can tell. “Every piece in a museum must tell a story,” he said.Looking at a battlefield illustration, drawn during the Anglo-Boer War, he chuckled while pointing out that at the very same spot a soldier, who was sitting passively, was shot in the head. Before he collapsed, the soldier cried, “Who threw that stone at me?”About the Buffalo Volunteer RiflesAn infantry regiment of the South African army, the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles is in its 135th year of existence. It was established as the Buffalo Mounted Rifles in 1876 by Edward Yord Brabant.The regiment changed its name four times. In 1879 it was known as the Cape Mounted Yeomanry before changing to the Kaffrarian Rifles in the 1890s. It became known as the Buffalo Volunteer Rifles in 1999.One of the more controversial figures was Rowland Bettington, who commanded the regiment in the 1890s and gained notoriety when he partook in the Jameson Raid.In 1927 the BVR officially affiliated itself with the King’s Royal Rifle Corps.The BVR boasts a Victorian Cross hero in Gerrard Ross “Toys” Norton. He received the accolade after his efforts in the Second World War. He is only one of three South Africans to have received the medal, which is displayed at the BVR Museum alongside a photo of the war veteran.Among the BVR’s latest members are former soldiers of the liberation struggle who fought against the apartheid regime.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest On Wednesday, June 5, The Darke County Agricultural Society received a brand new blue tractor from Apple Farm Service. Apple Farm Service gladly donated a New Holland T5.110 to the Great Darke County Fair to be used for the next six months.“This is the second tractor that Apples has donated for us to use,” said Brian Rismiller, fair manager. “Last year we were given a Case IH tractor to use. We truly appreciate that Apple thought of us again!”The Darke County Fairgrounds will have the opportunity to break in this new tractor for the next six months. They plan to use it primarily to rake the arena and maintain the horse barns.“We’re happy to help the Darke County Ag Society!” said Bill Apple, president of Apple Farm Service. “New Holland enjoys working with their dealerships to support local nonprofit organizations like the Ag Society. Some of our employees have fond memories of showing animals and projects in the Darke County fair. We are thrilled to give back to a staple of this community.”This New Holland T5.110 tractor won’t stay long after its short stay at the fairgrounds. This 114 horse-power utility tractor will be for sale to a well-deserving farmer with a sizable discount and a new warranty. For now, it’ll be working hard at the Great Darke County Fairgrounds.