Karma Engine; what makes the car go round comes around!

Hi! We are Romana Challans, Scott Anderson, and Reid Honan – and we are the Karma Engine team. The Karma Engine is actually a Strategy Engine, and is designed to advise, (for this race) what are some good decisions to make based on a complex set of data – where to stop to get maximum points, for example, or when to have (and not to have!) passengers in the car. In the long term, it may even be included in the car itself, and help the car to make intelligent choices about speed etc (but don’t worry, that is a way off yet, and requires a lot more research and development).


We decided we needed a system that was probably cleverer than we are – but that is hard to build overnight! So we decided to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the long term, but in the short term, go for a Machine Learning (ML) approach. We know, people find this a bit confusing – AI is about intelligent machines, whereas ML is just about computers being able to learn from whatever data they can find/we give them.


Part of creating this system required us to understand what information would be put into the system. These inputs include everyday values like weather, (such as cloud cover, wind speed and direction), through to more advanced inputs like the tracking of power usage over different environments. We also need to understand some maths, like probability and statistics – so that earlier study has actually paid off!


Our team faces multiple challenges to get this engine up and running.  We have lots of different systems to talk to a common point – the Karma Engine.  Not only this, but we only have so much processing power to splash around – not like we can lug a supercomputer with using the boot of the car – though Intel has helped us with the generous donation of some really wonderful NUCs (a small-form-factor personal computer designed by Intel)! So we have to train our engine (like a prize fighter!) in advance, and then feed it during the trip to top it up.


We have all the sensors and data we can get our hands on – lots of data, but some of it is in a range, some of it is known data points, some is estimation or prediction (like weather), and some of it is a guess. It all feeds into this engine – and at the end, tells us the best action to take over the race.  Where and when to stop, when to pick up passengers (and when to get them out), when to floor it (legally, we assure you!) and when to take it easy.  


Sounds simple right? Let’s find out….

Introducing David

David Branford has a passion for electronics, computing and cars, which had led him to joining the team. His role in the team spans across electronics and software telemetry. He is currently working on the electronics for the Investigator and Investigator Mini while studying a Bachelor of Science here at Flinders University.

“An opportunity to participate in a WSC race was too good to pass up. I originally got involved with my final year project: my project partner and I developed a telemetry system from the CAN data all the way through to the UI. I had the opportunity to join the project team while we were working on that and I have stayed on to work on the electronics and telemetry for the golf cart and soon (hopefully) the race car. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to participate in this prestigious event.”

Introducing Katelin

Katelin Ryle joined the business team in February this year with the responsibility of organising and coordinating content across our various social media presences. Her role involves telling the team’s story to the public in ways that captive and interact with the audience, exploring different ways of achieving a higher post reach and analysing post statistics to gain an insight of what content appeals to an audience. She’s currently in her third year studying a Bachelor of Information Technology (Digital Media) here at Flinders University.

“I was presented with this exciting opportunity to work with the team as work placement for my degree this year, which has allowed me to gain valuable experience in not only managing various social media platforms for an organisation, but also insight into the workings of a business.. all whilst working towards completing my degree.”


Introducing Sean

Sean McShane has provided technical assistance to the team since 2016, his addition to the Business Team has not gone unnoticed. His role spans across many areas including sponsorship, events, media and marketing and web development. He is currently in his second year studying a Bachelor of Information Technology.

“This project has allowed me to experience many different opportunities whilst studying these things include working with external partners to seek sponsorship and building a web presence that attracts people and shares the story of the team.”

Sean has a passion for sharing the story and building a web presence that people find attractive. This also inspires him to continue working for himself doing freelance web design and promotional media.

Introducing Bradley

Bradley Kirk is one of the many inspired and passionate students volunteering their time to work on achieving the teams goals. His roles within the team include providing information on general design capabilities of solar cells, coordinating with other team members on the design of the solar array, and contacting those who provide the desired cells for our vehicle.

Outside of the team, Bradley is an undergraduate student studying a Bachelor of Science (Honours) –enhanced program for high achievers, doubling majoring in Physics and Chemistry.

“I having a large passion towards science and its pursuit in expanding our knowledge of the universe as a whole, resulting in the interest in the research field of photovoltaic solar cells.”

Before joining the team, Bradley has been involved in a variety of research projects as an undergraduate intern, relating to both photovoltaic cells and photo catalysts. This has provided him with the valuable knowledge that he seeks in relation to PV cells and their capabilities.

“I see PV cells as potentially replacing fossil fuels in Australia, allowing the achievement of 100% renewable energy for our country, and even the world.”