FRC is like Nascar in the way you have a large interdisciplinary team of competitors, high stakes competition, and a roaring audience rooting for you along the way.
Unfortunately, it’s also similar in the way it’s cost prohibitive for many and can feel like a rich man’s sport. Many teams are from private, well funded schools or have done a great job raising from sponsors (they don’t just come to you).
Overall it's getting harder and harder for smaller high schools to keep up and stay in the league with raising the necessary costs upwards to ~$10,000. That’s a large commitment, especially if the students are new and don’t have access to mentors.
FRC has done a great job of upholding its mission and inspiring large groups of kids to pursue STEM endeavors.
But how do we take this to the next level and enable generations of kids to create for a high-tech future? We reduce the barrier to entry: keep costs low, reduce technical requirements, and scale access to industry mentors.
If we do this, then we’ll have effectively built a self-sustaining organization of students primed to tackle more ambitious challenges. It’ll be a clear pipeline connecting young students with industry pros to encourage more innovation.
And that’s what we’re doing at AP Racing. What this ultimately creates in parallel is a new brand of competitive robotics built by students and inspired by the motorsport organizations of legend: Formula 1, WRC, MotoGP, etc.
We keep costs low for students by only requiring them to pay an affordable yearly subscription to participate. All they need is a laptop to play with the autonomous car simulator and compete in the weekly grand prix style races.
If they don’t want to shell out ~$300 for an autonomous RC car kit yet, they can simply remote deploy their code onto one of our cars and get the video results in return.
The weekly robo races are key as they give students a chance to showcase their ai-cars. This is all broadcast with commentary from industry pros, instructors, and general enthusiasts. Progress is tracked by a leaderboard for bragging rights and bigger races.
In the days leading up to races, students have access to video lessons and weekly office hours from instructors to learn more about a broad set of STEM subjects.
To help their comprehension, they test things out in the Donkey Car simulator, an open-source virtual sandbox. Here students teach a self-driving RC car how to drive and collect data to improve its behavior.
We know that AI and robotics are rapidly changing fields. And we’re also cognizant of the fact that our own understanding is evolving. As a result, we’ve designed our curriculum and league structure to make it easy to revise and keep up with the latest developments.
To ensure we’re prepared for the future, we’ll need to open the flood gates for way more students to get involved sooner.