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First-year engineers strut their skills at 24th annual robot competition

Hundreds of spectators filled the Recreation and Physical Activity Center's Davis Gymnasium on April 7 to watch robots race to be the best in the pits during The Ohio State University College of Engineering’s 24th annual robot competition.

The event is the culmination of a semester-long project that challenged 252 freshmen honors engineering students to design, build and program a fully autonomous robot vehicle in just nine weeks.

It also helps students determine if engineering is the right fit.

“We’re trying to show them as many different aspects of engineering as we can so they can make an informed decision of whether it’s what they want to do for the rest of their lives,” said Kathy Harper, a senior lecturer in the Department of Engineering Education.

Sixty-three teams of students competed in both a round-robin and a single-elimination tournament to determine which student-built robot could best complete the required tasks.

Just before the competition began Harper reminded students—many of whom had no prior robotics experience—of how much they’d achieved since beginning the project in late January.

“Think about January 26 when we told you want you were going to do today. Some of you looked like, 'ok, bring it on.' Some of you looked like deer in the headlights,” Harper said. “And you're all still here and you all have robots that you should be incredibly proud of.”

A student places her team's autonomous robot on the competition track.Madeline Carek makes final preparations before a round-robin run begins.

This year’s competition simulated the work needed for autonomous robot vehicles to get a racing pit and garage ready in record time.

Robots had to perform specific tasks in under two minutes, including turning a crank 180 degrees to deliver the right octane of fuel to the pit area, picking up a wrench and returning it to the garage, releasing a jack to lower a race car, pushing the correct buttons on a control panel to perform a diagnostic test and returning to the charging station.

“All of these students work hard. They all put in more time and effort to this project than we ask them to,” Harper explained. “We want them all to be successful and when one of the teams puts together a perfect run and you know exactly where they came from and the problems they overcame—there's no better feeling as an instructor."

Students are given technical and budgetary constraints for the project. Robots are limited to a 9-square-inch footprint and are constructed of various materials, including sheet metal, PVC, acrylic, plywood and Erector set components.

The competition track is also designed and built by undergraduate and graduate teaching assistants with the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors program. A new theme, track and tasks are developed each year, Harper said, making each competition unique.

Although challenging, the project is also gratifying, participants said.

Student teams visited this machine shop more than 650 times while building their robots.“The project gave us a lot of room for creativity and to build an entire robot from scratch is a very rewarding experience,” said Shyon Deshpande, an engineering physics major. “It's an experience we're going to carry on with us for the rest of our lives."

More than $19,000 in scholarships were awarded to winning teams, who were scored on design and how well their robots performed in individual and head-to-head runs. 

The single-elimination tournament champion team was made up of Zachary Mack, Ben Napolitan, Anmol Takiar and Ian Williamson who each received a $250 scholarship thanks to Shell's corporate sponsorship.

Other corporate sponsors included American Woodmark, Aptiv, ArcelorMittal, Boeing, Garmin, Harris, GE Aviation, Honda R&D Americas Inc., L Brands, Nokia, Northrop Grumman and Procter & Gamble.

Other tournament competition awards:
Second place in tournament: Varun Gopal, Stephen Pappa, Parshva Shah and Jon Zimmerman
Third place in tournament: Noah Darwiche, Tyler Fuerst, Naveen Makkar and Jun Nishikawa
Fourth place in tournament: Alex Carr, Connor Finneran, Brian Seeds and Jack Sullivan

Outstanding achievement in engineering:
First place: Kyle Doerger, Andrew Heinmiller, Jesse Krieger and Henry Miller
Second place: Tom Ballas, Shyon Deshpande, Dean Ogle and Meghan Walther
Third place: Sujanesh Kakumanu, Anika Kamisetty, Joy Smith and Andrew Yates

Outstanding achievement in innovation:
First place: Avee Oabel, Sarp Sezer, Kyle Ward and Sean Weigel
Second place: Bryan Crossman, Vincent D'lppolito, Scott Kelly and Sahil Khatri
Third place: Bryan Hodge, Charles Moyse, Ben Townsend and Justin Tremonti

Hot rod robot:
First place: Tom Casavant, Kerina Macariola, Cole Swartz and Yaoqi Xing
Second place: Ally Kates, Nicholas Krammer, Jen Ujczo and Andrew Welsh
Third place: Blaine Miller, Clayton Mong, Samantha Ott and John Roehrs
Fourth place: Claire Fryman, Kimmy Hartman, Zachary Holbrook and JJ Kim

Most consistent in pool play:
First place: Alex Carr, Connor Finneran, Brian Seeds and Jack Sullivan
Second place: Zachary Mack, Ben Napolitan, Anmol Takiar and Ian Williamson
Third place: Zach Boledovic, Mason Cobb, Luke Koury and Dennis Sweeney
Fourth place: Audrey Cowen, Ryan Hudson, Josh Szymanski ad Michael Valerian

View more photos from the competition online.

by Candi Clevenger, College of Engineering Communications,

Tags: Students