During his internship with OSRF, Alex Henning developed FRCSim for the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). FRC is a competive high school robotics program where students build 120lb robots and compete against other robots while working on alliances. FRCSim is a set of plugins that integrates Gazebo and WPILib, the robot library used by teams, so that they can work together to allow the same code to run on FRC robots and on Gazebo simulated robots. Until recently, students on FRC teams needed access to physical robots to test their code, practice programming, and learn WPILib in just six short weeks. FRCSim currently ships with models of two actual robots and experimental support is on the way to allow teams to import their own robots into Gazebo.
Alex implemented WPILibSim in both Java and C++. He also developed Gazebo plugins for a variety of sensors and actuators, created a simplified installer for FRC teams and integrated with the WPILib Eclipse-based development tools. The current integration using the Eclipse plugins makes running the code in simulation almost identical to deploying for the real robot, the only difference is the user selects "Run in simulation" instead of "Deploy to robot". The plugin also ships with example programs that can be run and modified by students. Check out the following video for more information.
FRCSim is currently part of the closed FRC Beta and should be available to everyone in January, 2015. With its deployment, students will be given greater access to simulation environments to help them learn to program robots. It will also give them experience with simulation, which is being used more and more as part of modern robotics projects.