Thirty-five senior Electrical Engineering students are gearing up for a mechanical
fight on Monday to see who has created the top robot in a competition that
provides the climax for a new senior design course in mobile robotics. The
students, divided into teams of three, have built 13 autonomous robots. The
robots will attempt to navigate an obstacle course that includes a miniature
forest and a river, negotiable via a small ferry.
The robots are fashioned from a framework of LEGO building blocks and contain
microcontrollers (which are programmed by the students), motors, sensors,
wheels and other apparatus to help the creations make their way as quickly as
possible through the course. According to Linda Bushnell, assistant professor
of electrical engineering and course instructor, the students are employing a
variety of designs, including one robot that will scurry about on mechanical
legs. The new robotics course was proposed by three recently graduated
electrical engineering seniors as a means of allowing students to learn about
embedded design fundamentals through hands-on experience. Their idea to use
LEGO building blocks to create autonomous robots won two awards last June and
has formed the basis for a series of three classes now taught each quarter.
One of the graduates, Michael Taylor, will help judge Monday's contest.