Professor Peter Affolter of BFH portrait

Driving autonomy education at BFH with Prof. Affolter

Bern, Switzerland: Prof. Peter Affolter, Head of the automotive department at Berner Fachhochschule (BFH), shares his experience creating a curriculum in autonomy education with Duckietown. Quick links Bern University of Applied Science Prof. Peter Affolter @ BFH Prof. Peter Affolter Driving autonomy

Bern, Switzerland: Prof. Peter Affolter, Head of the automotive department at Berner Fachhochschule (BFH), shares his experience creating a curriculum in autonomy education with Duckietown.

Quick links
Students controlling Duckiebots at BFH

Driving autonomy education with Duckietown

Prof. Affolter at the Bern University of Applied Sciences introduces autonomy education in the automotive curriculum

Hi! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. I'd like to start by asking you to introduce yourself, and tell us who you are and what you do.

Certainly! My name is Peter Affolter. I am at the head of the automotive department at the Bern University of Applied Science. I work as a lecturer in autonomous driving, vehicle communications, and related areas.

How did you get to know Duckietown?

The first time I saw it was probably two or three years ago. I came across it by chance while Googling on the internet. I was looking for information about lessons and classes on autonomous driving, a very complicated topic. I was searching for an easy platform, especially hardware, to simulate a simple vehicle. Then, I stumbled upon Duckietown. Initially, it looked a bit childish, but I was surprised by its concept, quality, and comprehensive documentation, including lessons slides for this complex theory. I decided to focus on Duckietown, especially on the massive online open course hosted on edX [Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown]. I also really enjoyed the great support from all the stakeholders and universities involved in this initiative.

Students learning robotics in at BFH with Duckietown
Did you find the "Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown", the massive open online course (MOOC) on edX, helpful?

Yes, at that time, there was only the archive available on edX.org, and I registered there. I couldn’t participate in real-time, but I went through the materials myself. I also contacted the Duckietown staff, and they provided me with support and missing documents. I adapted the content for my own class, focusing on bachelor-level students, parallel to the massive online open course from edX.

Very interesting, so you adapted the materials for your course. How did you set up the class, did you find any challenges?

It was clear to me that I could introduce our students, future automotive engineers, to autonomous driving. I wanted to give them an overview of the potential, limits, obstacles, and areas needing progress. Since they were not programmers or IT technologists, I needed to simplify it. I decided to conduct whole-class courses using video material from the MOOC. I adapted the quizzes and provided them with virtual machines, avoiding Linux and network issues. They could use the vehicles hosted on the BFH server farm through a browser terminal, even utilizing the Duckiebots. It became an infrastructure for exercises from simulation to reality, based on Duckietown classes.

How did the teaching experience go?

The first class had potential for improvement, but we adopted a flipped classroom approach with four lessons a week for 16 weeks. Students studied theory at home, and class time was for exercises, discussions, and additional explanations. The students enjoyed it, and while they didn’t grasp every detail, they felt proud and motivated. There’s still plenty of room for improvement in the next classes. They grasped the feeling and had the chance to work on neural networks, image manipulations, and more. I made good progress, and there’s still plenty of material to explore and implement in future classes.

Honestly, I haven't found another hardware platform as good as Duckietown for my needs. It's a simple platform with a fun approach, well-documented, and with a really reactive community. Even compared to other commercial products, Duckieown stands out. It fulfills all the needs from beginners to experts.

What were your overall impressions introducing autonomy education to your students with Duckietown?

Honestly, I haven’t found another hardware platform as good as Duckietown for my needs. It’s a simple platform with a fun approach, well-documented, and with a really reactive community. Even compared to other commercial products, Duckietown stands out. It fulfills all the needs from beginners to experts.

Thank you again for sharing your experience with us. Best of luck in your next classes!

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences. It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell?

Reach out to us!

Duckietown Sky logo

Duckiedrone: how to fly a Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter

Boston, 20 October 2023: Duckietown Sky and the Duckietown drone, a Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter, are discussed with the Aerial ROS community, a group of experts working to define the future of software architectures for quadcopters.  

Learning robot autonomy by flying with Duckietown Sky

Following an invitation to the Aerial ROS workgroup community meeting, Duckietown staff was delighted to present the Duckietown Sky initiative, the current Duckiedrone design, a DIY Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter, and future plans for both hardware and courseware development.

The goal of the ROS (Robotic Operating System) aerial robotics working group is to gather drone enthusiasts within the ROS community and facilitate the sharing of ideas and discussion of issues regarding autonomous robotic platforms operating in the air.

Duckietown Sky, a National Science Foundation-funded educational effort in collaboration with Brown University started in 2019, is an integral component of the Duckietown education vision, representing the commitment to fostering robot autonomy education in all its forms. Beyond self-driving cars (Duckiebots) and smart cities (Duckietowns), Duckietown highlights what is common despite the different applications of robot autonomy. From ground to sky, whether it drives, flies, or blinks, Duckietown is a platform to learn, explore and innovate when it comes to robot autonomy.

With the focus on quadcopters, Duckietown Sky offers MOOC-style learning experiences tailored for undergraduate and senior high school students. Flight is exciting! 

The program’s design criteria revolves around achieving state-of-the-art autonomy ground-up using off-the-shelf components, with a Raspberry Pi as core computational unit, for its wide-spread applications and large community.  Duckiedrones, now at the second hardware design iteration moving towards the third, aim to provide students with hands-on learning experiences covering from the basics, such as soldering, to pretty advanced algorithmic cornerstones of autonomy such an UKFs (Unscented Kalman Filters) and SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). 

Aspiring engineers should however be prepared for preliminary requirements like soldering, have access to a laptop or base station, and an internet connection for setting the working environment up. 

From a box of parts to a Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter

Duckietown Duckiedrone model DD21 - happy yellow box
Duckietown Duckiedrone model DD21 - what's in the box?

The Duckietown Sky experience is an exciting journey that begins with a simple box of parts and culminates in the creation of an autonomously flying drone. In the Duckietown spirit of democratizing access to the science and technology of autonomy through accessible platforms, the happy-yellow Duckiebox includes almost everything needed to get flying. 

We encourage instructors, students and practitioners to check the development roadmaps for both our hardware design and courseware, outlined in our presentation, and reaching out without hesitation to provide comments or feedback! 

Building on the extensive experience of the Duckietown team in massive open online courses (check out the Self-Driving Cars with Duckietown MOOC: the world’s first robot autonomy MOOC with hardware), we look to prepare a series of short online courses. These courses will be led by Professors from Brown, as well as other universities, and will provide an ever broader audience with the opportunity to explore the fascinating world of robot autonomy: from the science and technology to the tools and workflows, to real-world applications presented by industry and academic leaders. 

Want to try the Duckietown Sky experience yourself, build a DYI Raspberry Pi-based autonomous quadcopter, or teach an aerial autonomy class at your high school or at university level? Follow the steps below to begin now.

Learn more about Duckietown

Duckietown enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences. It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Felix Donoso Duckietown POD

Practical and playful: Duckietown talks with Prof. Donoso

Félix Donoso, Associate Professor at Duoc UC uses Duckietown to teach his students about the science and technology of autonomy in a practical and playful way.

Santiago de Chile, 17 October 2023: Learn how Félix Donoso H., Associate Professor at the School of Computer Science and Telecommunications at the Duoc UC Professional Institute, utilized the Duckietown platform to engage with students and teach them complex concepts in a practical and playful way.

Happy students use Duckietown

Practical and playful, an interview with Prof. Donoso

Hi! Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Félix Donoso H. I hold a Master’s degree in Education, specializing in Teaching for Higher Education. I am also an Engineer in Connectivity and Networks and have a Diploma in Applied Research and Innovation. I have been working in higher education for 8 years. Currently, I am an Associate Professor at the School of Computer Science and Telecommunications at the Duoc UC Professional Institute. I am involved in various projects at the Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer.

We read on the DUOC website about your Duckietown class, could you tell us a little more about it?​
At the Center for Innovation and Technology Transfer of the School of Computer Science and Telecommunications at DuocUC, we have recently implemented Duckietown to offer our students hands-on experience in robotics and autonomous vehicles. The workshops are designed to teach fundamental concepts of control, computer vision, and machine learning, using the Duckietown platform to provide a hands-on and cutting-edge yet accessible experience.
top view of duckiebots on a section of duckietown, rubber duckies scattered around, traffic signs
side view of duckiebots on a section of duckietown, rubber duckies scattered around, traffic signs
What is the pedagogical focus of your learning activities?
The pedagogical approach is and will be eminently practical and collaborative. We want students to not only understand theoretical concepts but also apply them in a real environment. Collaboration among students is essential, fostering teamwork and problem-solving in a practical context.
How did you learn about Duckietown?​
I learned about Duckietown during a robotics course at the University of Chile. The platform was presented as an innovative educational tool, and I was intrigued by its potential to teach complex concepts in an accessible and attractive way.
What is the thing you liked most about using Duckietown in your class?​
What I liked most about using Duckietown was the ability to bring abstract concepts to real life. Students were able to see how their algorithms and codes work in a tangible and entertaining environment, making the concepts easier to understand and more appealing.
How did your students react to the course?​

The students responded very positively.
The practical and playful nature of the course allowed them to actively engage
in learning, and many expressed that the experience with Duckietown has been
one of the most memorable in their education. 

Pablo Zapata, a fourth-year student of Computer Engineering and one of the project members, highlights that “my experience has been incredible, as I entered an area that is not part of our curriculum, and for this reason, we have learned to build robots and work with different components. This project has surprised me a lot because of the
technology we are using, and at the same time, it has greatly enriched us over
time.”

On the other hand, Néstor Carvacho, a second-year student in the Computer Programmer Analyst career, points out that “I have been able to work with cutting-edge technology and, with it, learn new work tools that are not part of my career; like Linux, which will help me
in my future work.”

Duckietown has allowed students from different campuses of the school of computer science and telecommunications at Duoc UC to immerse themselves in the world of robotics and autonomous vehicles, Linux, ROS, and Python, in an accessible and exciting way.

Felix donoso and two colleagues kneeling behind a duckietown setting (duckietown, duckiebots, traffic signs)
How would you recommend we improve the platform?
Although the platform is excellent, it could benefit from more resources and tutorials aimed at different levels of experience. It would also be helpful to have more examples of projects and applications in different fields to inspire students and showcase the versatility of the platform.
Would you like to add anything else?

I would just like to emphasize how valuable the Duckietown platform has been to our institution. It has allowed students from different campuses of the school of computer science and telecommunications at Duoc UC to immerse themselves in the world of robotics and autonomous vehicles, Linux, ROS, and Python, in an accessible and exciting way. I am eager to see how the platform evolves and how we can continue to use it in the future with the practical challenges we are preparing.

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences. It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell?

Reach out to us!

Three girls watching Duckiebot - Science museum

Duckietown to join the UK Permanent Science Museum Collection!

Boston, October 2023: several Duckietown objects officially joined the Science Museum Group permanent Collection: the United Kingdom’s national archive of science, technology, engineering, and medicine! 

Duckietown joins UK's Science Museum Group Collection

Duckietown is a trailblazer in providing accessible solutions for teaching and learning state-of-the-art autonomy, helping in the dissemination of the science and technology of modern robotics.

In 2019, the Science Museum of London picked up on the project and included Duckietown items: a Duckiebot (DB19), a segment of Duckietown, and a Duckietown traffic light, in their “Driverless: Who is in control?” exhibition.

Following the success of this exhibition, the Board of Directors of the Science Museum started considering including the DUckietown items in the permanent collection of their institution. 

We are proud to announce that, in August 2023, these Duckietown items have officially joined the Science Museum Group Collection – the UK’s national collection of science, technology, engineering and medicine.

Duckietown in the history books

Joining the permanent collection will:

 “ensure that the items – as rare and representative objects – are acquired, conserved, preserved and stored in order that they may be accessible to current and future generations for interpretation, loans to other institutions, research, education, and sometimes display in temporary or permanent exhibitions.

here are some details:

2023-216

E2019.0205.1

Duckiebot – small autonomous robot from Duckietown Project, 2018-2019

2023-222

E2019.0205.2

Traffic light kit from Duckietown Project, 2018-2019

2023-502

E2019.0205.3

City expansion pack from Duckietown Project, 2018-2019

Graham Dodge - Magic Inc.

There’s MAGIC in Westminster: innovating and cultivating, an interview with Graham Dodge

Westminster, Maryland: MAGIC and Duckietown partner to bring robot autonomy education in Westminster, MD.

The Mid-Atlantic Gigabit Innovation Collaboratory (MAGIC) was awarded funding from the Knorr-Bremse Global Care program in July of 2022 to launch an Autonomous Robotics Innovation Center (ARIC) in the heart of downtown Westminster.

Their goal for ARIC is to use the Duckietown platform to give Westminster students industry-relevant skills and hands-on experience that will prepare them for careers or further learning in robotics and engineering.

Quick links

Bringing industry relevant skills and hands-on experience to high school and undergrad students

We are very pleased to announce our partnership with MAGIC, bringing the Duckietown platform to Carroll County students and introducing the local community to robotics and AI technology.

MAGIC is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization headquartered in Westminster, MD, USA. Their mission is to build a technological ecosystem that creates and nurtures talent, entrepreneurship, and tech businesses, elevating the Westminster Gigabit community to lead the Mid-Atlantic region.

We talked with Graham Dodge, Executive Director of MAGIC, to know more about their new Autonomous Robotics Innovation Center (ARIC) project and how Duckietown is being used in this context.

5FEKCF3Z25E5TJUCBLSGMYL2TA-min-1
20220203_161240-1024x734

Hi! Could you introduce yourself?

My name is Graham Dodge. I’m the executive director of Magic Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit based in Maryland, United States. We focus on technology, education, and workforce development within our community.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Graham. How did you learn about Duckietown?

I was speaking with the CEO of a local company called Dynamic Dimension Technologies. We were discussing our autonomous corridor project in the city of Westminster, Maryland. He recommended using Duckietown as a platform to demonstrate some of the technologies to local elected officials and stakeholders. After seeing videos of Duckietown on their website, I was impressed by its user-friendly and cute approach to making technology accessible to people unfamiliar with computer vision and robotics. It seemed like a perfect way to explain these concepts to our community.

Very interesting! What are you using Duckietown for?

Initially, we used Duckietown to demonstrate autonomous technologies for our corridor project. However, we later secured funding and set up the Autonomous Robotics Innovation Center (ARIC), where we now use Duckietown for a broader robotics program. In ARIC, we teach students ROS, Python, Linux, and the documentation that comes along with Duckietown. Additionally, we plan to integrate railroad intersections with Duckietown, thanks to grant funding from Knorr-Bremse Global Care program in Germany, a train parts manufacturer involved in autonomous train systems.

“We’re seeing that students with very minimal computer science education can jump right into Duckietown and excel”.

Graham Dodge

That’s impressive, so you are integrating Duckietown with a rail system?

Yes, we are considering names like Duckierail or Duckietrains. This project aims to develop open-source solutions for Duckiebots to interact with trains and railroad crossings. We are excited to collaborate with the Knorr-Bremse Global Care program, who provided the funding, to showcase rail systems in a smart, connected infrastructure with autonomous vehicles.

We can’t wait to see the developments! Are you satisfied with your experience with Duckietown so far?

Absolutely! We started with a small MOOC kit, and despite lacking an internal instructor, two student interns managed to get the Duckiebots up and running within three months. The hands-on experience has been rewarding for them, and it’s remarkable how much they’ve learned. We are now expanding the program and have plans to engage with local colleges as well.

That’s fantastic! So, do you see Duckietown as a valuable tool for education and career development in the robotics industry?​

Yes, absolutely! Our goal is to set up an apprenticeship program for career pathway development. By providing students with hands-on experience through Duckietown, we aim to make them more attractive to local employers in the robotics industry. The students are already gaining valuable skills that match or even exceed those of some graduate students seeking internships with the same employers.

“We’ve had industry professionals and
local employers look at what we’re teaching and say that what our
high school interns are learning and building with Duckietown is more advanced – and
more industry relevant – than most of the undergraduate students they’ve seen”.

Graham Dodge

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.


Get Started with Duckietown!


Find out more use cases

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell? Reach out to us!

Group photo of the Duckietown Duckiedrone Summer Academy at MassRobotics - 2023

Exploring the skies at the summer Duckiedrone academy

Boston, 7-11 July 2023: Congratulations to the fourth cohort of students of the Duckiedrone summer academy, hosted by Massrobotics, Brown University and Duckietown with the generous support of Amazon Robotics!

Exploring the skies at the summer Duckiedrone academy

As the sun shines high, the summer Duckiedrone academy, a program which sees the cooperation of Duckietown, Amazon Fulfillment Technology and Robotics, MassRobotics and Brown University, has attracted high school students from the greater Boston area to dive into the world of autonomous aerial vehicles.

Duckiedrone DD21

The Duckiedrone is a DIY, open, Raspberry Pi-based quadcopter kit designed for introducing learners to autonomous flight. Comes with a polished undergraduate-level course and the support of the Duckietown international community.

Students learned how to build, program, and fly a drone starting from a box of components, in addition to participating in workshops held by industry professionals such as Stephanie Tellex, Associate Professor of Computer Science at Brown University, and Andrea Francesco Daniele, Chief Technology Officer at Duckietown.

In recent years autonomous robots have started revolutionizing many industries, and drones are playing an important role in this ongoing trend with applications from agriculture to inspection, surveillance, and warehouse management. 

These versatile flying machines are a gateway to the fundamentals of robot autonomy, especially (but not only!) for younger learners. Seeing a machine fly on its own is exciting! 

The Duckiedrone comes with step-by-step instructions for assembly, calibration, manual and autonomous operations. Students learn from the basics of mechatronics, such as soldering and handling of electrical circuits, to elements of autonomy including sensor calibration, middlewares (ROS), PID control, online filtering and simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) using Python and interactive Jupyter notebooks. 

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Prof. Das- IIT Jaidpur

Robotics education and research at IIT Jodhpur: an interview with Prof. Debasis Das

IIT Jodhpur, June 03, 2023: Prof. Debasis Das of IIT Jodhpur, Rajasthan, India, tells us about his experience in bringing Duckietown to his lab to support the teaching, research, and outreach efforts of his team in the fields of autonomous vehicles, robotics, computer vision, machine learning.

Robotics education and research at IIT Jodhpur: an interview with Prof. Debasis Das

Hello Professor Das, thank you for your time in taking our questions. How did you learn about Duckietown?

I learned about the Duckietown project through a variety of sources, including online platforms like social media, discussion forums, and academic publications, where many researchers and robotics enthusiasts have shared information related to the project. Additionally, some of my collaborators have also mentioned the project and its educational and research goals. Through these sources, I gained an understanding of what the Duckietown project is and the impact it has had in the field of robotics education and research.

This is great to hear! Starting from the education aspects, what classes are you teaching at IIT Jodhpur using Duckietown?

Duckietown is being used for a variety of classes and educational programs, primarily in the fields of computer science and engineering at IIT Jodhpur. Most recently we have utilized the platform to teach the following classes:

  • Vehicular Ad Hoc Networks: This class focuses on the design, development, and testing of autonomous vehicles using the Duckietown platform to simulate real-world scenarios.
  • Robotics and Mobility: This class teaches students the principles of mobility and the role of machine learning for decision-making, using the Duckietown platform for practical exercises.
VANET lab team at IIT Jodhpur - Prof. Debasis Das

What has your and your students’ experience been in these courses? 

We have found that hands-on learning experiences, such as those provided by Duckietown, are more effective in increasing students’ knowledge and capacity to recall topics than standard lecture-based teaching approaches. 

Furthermore, the dynamic and fascinating elements unique to Duckietown increase students’ passion for and interest in their assignments.

We have received large positive feedback for Duckietown from students and researchers who have used it at IIT Jodhpur, with many appreciating its entertaining and challenging nature. The platform’s scalability and ease of use across a wide range of disciplines and programs are commendable. Students also appreciate the opportunity to learn programming and problem-solving with real-world robotics difficulties. 

Though there may be some disparities in how each student utilizes the platform and what they gain in terms of education and enjoyment, the data thus far suggests that Duckietown can be a helpful and fun resource for students working in robotics and related fields.

"The Duckietown platform has been a valuable resource in supporting our research activities. We have used it as a tool for engaging with the broader community and promoting interest in science, technology, engineering, and STEM fields, including hosting workshops, competitions, and other events that showcase the capabilities of autonomous vehicles and provide opportunities for hands-on learning and exploration."

Visit to Prof. Das Duckietown research lab at IIT Jodhpur

Are you using Duckietown to support your research activities too?

Yes, the Duckietown platform has been a valuable resource in supporting our research activities. We have used the platform to test and evaluate novel algorithms and methods for autonomous vehicle design and control, and to investigate issues such as computer vision, machine learning, and control systems.

Are there other ways Duckietown has helped you conduct teaching, research, and outreach efforts?

We have used Duckietown as a tool for engaging with the broader community and promoting interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. We have hosted workshops, competitions, and other events that showcase the capabilities of autonomous vehicles and provide opportunities for hands-on learning and exploration.

Lab visit to VANET@IITJ - outreach effort using Duckietown

Would you suggest Duckietown to your colleagues?

Yes, I would definitely recommend Duckietown to my colleagues who are interested in teaching and researching areas such as autonomous vehicles, robotics, computer vision, machine learning, and control systems.

Duckietown provides a realistic and scalable environment for testing and assessing novel algorithms and methods for autonomous vehicle design and control, as well as a platform for engaging students and the general public in learning and discovery in these domains.

"We have received large positive feedback for Duckietown from students and researchers who have used it at IIT Jodhpur, with many appreciating its entertaining and challenging nature. The platform's scalability and ease of use across a wide range of disciplines and programs are commendable."

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell? Reach out to us!

Shima Akbari - La sapienza

Shima Akbari graduates with Duckietown at La Sapienza University in Rome

“La Sapienza” University of Rome, April 28, 2023: Shima Akbari, a Ph.D. student at the Italian National Program in Autonomous Systems, shares her experience working with Duckietown for her master’s thesis on lane following control for mobile robots.

Shima's work on control strategies for lane following

Hi, thank you for joining us today. Could you introduce yourself?

Certainly. My name is Shima Akbari, and I have a degree in Control Engineering from “La Sapienza” University of Rome. Currently, I am a Ph.D. student in the Italian National Program in Autonomous Systems.

You recently obtained your master’s degree, congratulations! You worked on lane following control approaches for mobile robots using Duckietown. How did you discover Duckietown?

I first learned about Duckietown while working on my master’s thesis. I have always been passionate about control and autonomy, particularly in mobile robots. However, I didn’t want to limit my project to theoretical calculations or computer simulations. I wanted to have a practical component to my work. When I shared this with my supervisor, Professor Oriolo, he introduced me to Duckietown and suggested that I conduct my experiments in this environment. So I implemented the lane following control in the Duckietown environment as part of my master’s thesis, using both the Duckietown simulator called Duckietown Gym, and the Duckiebots, which are the robots used in Duckietown. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of conducting my tests.

It’s great to hear you enjoyed working with Duckiebots! Tell us a little more about your project and what was your experience like.

My thesis focus was on computer vision based control. I used OpenCV, the well known computer vision library, and the camera mounted on the Duckiebots to extract lane lines from the streets in Duckietown. Based on information extracted from these features, I implemented control laws that enabled the Duckiebot to drive on the streets inside lanes.

To familiarize myself with the platform, I started by taking the Duckietown massive open online course on edX and completed the assignments and homework on my own. One of the modules was about implementing a PID controller for lateral position and another on steering rate control. I enjoyed the Braitenberg vehicles activity too, but my favorite project was on obstacle avoidance, obstacle detection, and computer vision.

"In engineering, true learning comes from practical implementation, and Duckietown offers that opportunity effectively."

You are studying in a field that is statistically dominated by male presence. What are your thoughts on this?

It’s indeed the case. According to recent statistics, only 16% of women are in engineering compared to 84% of men. While I acknowledge this disparity, I believe that women are just as capable as men in engineering or any other field. Moreover, I think that the situation is improving over time. If we look at statistics from 10 to 20 years ago, the percentage of women in engineering was even lower.

What would you say to a young woman who wants to study engineering and may be discouraged by the statistics?

I would tell her that statistics and other people’s opinions should not deter her from pursuing her interest in engineering or any other subject. She should follow her dreams and not be discouraged by external factors.

 

Thank you for this thought, we hope this interview will help it reach as many women thinking about pursuing engineering careers out there as possible.

Absolutely. I would recommend Duckietown to anyone interested in learning about autonomous systems, regardless of their background or gender. It provides an excellent opportunity to learn about autonomy and control in a practical and user-friendly way. In engineering, true learning comes from practical implementation, and Duckietown offers that opportunity effectively.

What would you consider to be the unique value or appeal of Duckietown? What makes it special?

I would say that the simplicity of Duckietown is its most appealing aspect. The robots are designed to be simple and easy to use, and working with them is a lot of fun. Additionally, Duckietown has excellent support, with comprehensive documentation and manuals that are written in a detailed, step-by-step manner. Even if you don’t have a strong background in tools like Linux or Docker, you can still make progress by reading and following the documentation

"Duckietown is simple and has excellent support, with comprehensive documentation and manuals that are written in a detailed, step-by-step manner. Even if you don't have a strong background in concepts like Linux or Docker, you can still make progress by reading and following the documentation."

Thank you very much for taking the time to share your experience with us, we really appreciate it. Is there anything else you would like to add?

I’d just like to express how amazing it was for me to be introduced to and work with Duckietown. I would highly recommend it to others as well.

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell? Reach out to us!

Lei Yang - University of Nevada

University of Nevada: Professor Lei Yang uses Duckietown based RET​

University of Reno, March 7, 2023: Lei Yang, Associate Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering of the University of Nevada in Reno shares with us his experience conducting a program called Research Experience for Teachers (RET) focused on “Integrating Big Data into Robotics”. 

Professor Lei Yang tells us about conducting a Duckietown based Research Experience for Teachers

Professor Lei Yang shares with us his relationship with Duckietown and how it performed used in a K-12 teachers research experience led by the Computer Science and Engineering department of the University of Nevada in Reno.

Good morning Professor and thank you for finding the time to speak to me.

Good morning, thank you.

How did you come across Duckietown the first time? When did you discover it?

Well, we needed a specific platform for our project, and a collaborator from Europe told us about this platform he was very familiar with. He let us know that it was a great platform, and that we should have a look at it. We accepted and ended up using Duckietown and suiting it to our project.

Could you tell us more about this project?

For three years now at the University of Nevada, Reno’s Computer Science and Engineering department (CSE) we’ve been conducting a program called Research Experience for Teachers (RET) focused on “Integrating Big Data into Robotics”. It’s a six-week course, through which participants can gain hands-on robotics experience that can be later applied in classrooms, in a fun way. The main idea is trying to provide a research experience to K-12 teachers. That’s why we proposed the idea of using Duckietown to teach K-12 teachers. We asked ourselves. what is the state of the art in terms of data analytics, machine learning? I think Duckietown is a very good education platform for teachers. We make use of the very good materials provided by Duckietown and I’m very satisfied with its implementation.
We purchased a Duckietown set for each participant and let them bring the hardware back to their school. Some teachers started their very own robotics clubs! They basically utilize that as an additional platform for their students.

What would you say are the characteristics of Duckietown that make it useful for you?

Our RET program involves all K-12 teachers, and one of the main goals of our program is to work with these teachers to develop curriculum modules suitable for their students. We have teachers from different levels, but we find that actually middle school and high school teachers are kind of more suited for this program. Duckietown is freely available and includes curricula that can be adapted for all levels of education. It is tangible, it is accessible,  and looks fun!

"I think Duckietown is a very good education platform for teachers. We make use of the very good materials provided by Duckietown and I’m very satisfied with its implementation."

It’s also easy to deal with. We can find all the materials online, and it is hands-on as I already mentioned. People like hands on activities, it’s good for kids. The duckies also serve to present robotics as less intimidating, making it easier to teach the harder, underlying concepts. I think that’s very nice: it can be used to teach optimization, control theory, these are fundamental things. I think this is a platform that can suit people with different levels of background and also an easy way to start one’s journey into robotics.

What does the future hold?

I think we’ve done a great job this year, and the teachers liked our project. I can see a significant improvement compared to the first year. This is a three-year project, so this year was the last for the program. After the program expired, we submitted another proposal to continue utilizing Duckietown, and to integrate new things like blockchain technology and other new ideas into this program so hopefully we’ll be using this platform in the future as well.

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell? Reach out to us!

How Duckietown set “Frank” Chude Qian on the path to autonomous vehicles

University of Toronto, February 3, 2022: “Frank” Chude Qian, A Master Student at the University of Toronto, shares with us his experience with Duckietown.

How Duckietown set Chude (Frank) Qian on the road to autonomous vehicles

“Frank” Chude Qian is a Master’s student at the University of Toronto. He first encountered Duckietown at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in 2019, and from that moment he decided that autonomous vehicles would have been his path forward.

Hello and thank you so much for having accepted to have this brief chat with us! Tell us about yourself and what you do.

Definitely! My name is Frank, and I’m currently a student at the University of Toronto. I’m in the second year of my program. I started as an Engineering Master’s student, and then I switched over to a Master of Science. My main focus is on developing the second generation of the University of Toronto’s autonomous vehicles that participate in the SAE Auto Drive Challenge. My work will end with the transition to the new vehicle, which will happen next year.

Thank you. Could you describe to us your first approach with Duckietown?

Yeah, definitely. So I was actually at ICRA 2019 wandering around and figuring out what to do with my life. I was taking part in another competition where I saw the Duckietown setup at the ICRA challenge [AI-DO 2]. It looked like great fun, I really loved the idea of how the project is and how it’s designed as a global initiative. You have people from different parts of the world trying to do the same thing, which I found inspiring.

Compared to the actual large-scale autonomous vehicles, Duckietown is an affordable option to learn mobility, and I really liked it. After I came back from ICRA, I just started looking at Duckietown and the AI Driving Olympics competition in more detail.

Frank Chude Qian and Jacopo Tani at Ai-DO 2, ICRA 2019

Nice! And how did that go?

In 2019, I started looking into what we could do with Duckiebots at my at Case Western Reserve University, where I was doing my undergrad studies. After learning about the AI-DO challenges, I was like, well, I’ll give it a try! It’s a challenge. I’m pretty competitive. So it took some trying and it ended up, I would say, good enough for where I was back then.

The other thing I looked into was Duckietown’s large code base for demonstrations because I was mainly working on answering the question: “what can you do with limited computing power for a system?”. I tested out the demos, and the Autolab idea, and tried to work on some improvements.

Back in 2019, there wasn’t a lot of work being done on that, unfortunately, but a good part of what was available had been tested, and the documentation was well-proofread. I then took over as a team lead for University of Toronto’s Autonomous Vehicle team, a role less involved with the project, but I still used Duckietown as a great introduction idea, of course.

We have a lot of students who are joining our team with almost no background in autonomous driving, and the Duckietown materials serve as a very good introduction idea to basically educate the younger students on the concept of autonomous vehicles.

Another thing I must say I learned a lot from is the Duckietown challenge and the evaluation side of the AI Driving Olympics, the evaluation server, and the idea of automated evaluation. I think I really gained a lot of experience and knowledge in testing and evaluating thanks to the Duckietown project.

Also along the way, I did another course project on a new baseline for the AI Driving Olympics or for what we call the conditional behavior cloning baseline. So that became another cross-project.

"It’s not only the cost-effectiveness but also the scalability of Duckietown and the potential it has to make a difference in key industrial sectors of the future."

It is great to hear that Duckietown helped you get comfortable with real self-driving cars. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Actually, yes. I know Duckietown is also planning on expanding its materials to the K-12 education side of things. I think that’s a great idea to get more students and younger folks excited about autonomous vehicles. And I think that one day autonomous vehicles will be more and more popular on the road, and the job market for developing and maintaining autonomous vehicles is going to be huge.

I really like the effort, and in fact, that’s probably something I’ll try to do: once I graduate from my current program, I’ll try to hop back on and further the development effort of expanding it to K-12 education.

Would you recommend Duckietown to students or colleagues?

Yeah, definitely! And I want to even sort of move it a step further.: for those students who want to get into autonomous vehicle research or development, but maybe their university doesn’t have much funding support for these kinds of programs, Duckietown is such a great project to just adopt.

You just start with the initial concept, and I’ve seen amazing research done thanks to Duckietown. I personally tried a couple of ideas, too. The one thing Duckietown can provide that nothing else can, as far as I can tell, at the same cost range is the development of multi-robot collaboration and the swarm robotics idea.

I think both of these features just provide great advantages for researchers and for students. You know, it’s a Jetson Nano plus some hardware. Or you can use the Raspberry Pi version. I think for students in the universities which don’t provide as much funding this could be a great starting point. And I personally learned so much throughout those projects, and ultimately that lead me to where I am today. So, yeah, definitely I would recommend it.

What would you say is the biggest quality of Duckietown?

I think from my experience with the AI-DO, it’s not only the cost effectiveness, but also the scalability of Duckietown and the potential it has to make a difference in key industrial sectors of the future.

Thank you very much!

Note from the editors: a few months after this interview, Frank started working as Software Simulation Developer at General Motors. Congratulations, Frank!

Learn more about Duckietown

The Duckietown platform enables state-of-the-art robotics and AI learning experiences.

It is designed to help teach, learn, and do research: from exploring the fundamentals of computer science and automation to pushing the boundaries of human knowledge.

Tell us your story

Are you an instructor, learner, researcher or professional with a Duckietown story to tell? Reach out to us!