Students Soar in Competitions

As the spring semester winds down, competitions allow students to showcase what they’ve learned in various scenarios. Members of two student group travelled near and far to represent Temple and the College of Engineering and took home some impressive accolades for their performances.

SUMO-BOT

Fighting robots have become popular among modern culture, popping up at times on television series. For two College juniors, the IEEE sumo-bot challenge didn’t mean putting spinning saws or lifting arms on remote-control robots. Rather, they took a kit and designed an autonomous bot to push another out of a circular field, like in sumo. Similar to the great Japanese tradition, the bouts don’t last long.

Juniors Matthew Theiss and Nick Stumpo put together the sumo-bot for a competition hosted by Rowan University on April 8th. Their kit allowed them to a build a 10 cm by 10 cm bot weighing 500g that dominated the competition, winning every round of the double-elimination, dropping only one bout in the best-of-three matches. Temple defeated Stockton, Ohio State, and host Rowan twice, to claim the title.

Unlike last year, where they built a robot on the day of competition from provided parts, this competition allowed them to prepare. The bot runs on a programmable microchip, which gave them an advantage. Specifically, working with Arduino, a branch of C-based hardware programming, allowed them to devise a strategy. “It has more readability, which is a very good language to start out with if you’re starting to program hardware,” said Stumpo, who TAs a class that introduces students to the language.

The prep time also helped the team find a successful strategy. They went for a search-and-destroy plan, allowing their bot a chance to scan first, then move towards the target. “It started out by scanning in place, then going for an enemy, or if it didn’t find anything in a certain amount of time, go in a random direction,” said Theiss. “It ended up benefitting us a lot during the competition because there were some robots, for example, that maybe chose to instead of scanning right off the bat, they maybe chose to go forward. We will be able to scan and see them. They would already be at the edge and we would just push them off.”

MICRO-MOUSE

The other group from IEEE who traveled to Rowan April 8th brought the micro-mouse that was on display during Engineers Week. This competition challenged them to design an autonomous bot to navigate a maze, find the center, and return to the starting point, in 10 minutes.

This year, Temple finished third, a high watermark for recent performances, among seven competitors. Like with the sumo-bot, more preparation time allowed for better results. “It was smaller than other years,” said electrical and computing engineering junior Benjamin Gross about this year’s mouse. “It was more compact. More thought went into the design and the code. We went with a little fatter wheel than other teams to get more traction, like a drag race car. More sensor work went into this than other years.”

The mouse went through some test runs but wasn’t able to successfully navigate the course at the competition. The group credits help from members of the faculty and post-grad students. Notably, Prof. Frank Higgins helped with the coding aspect. “He gave me the idea that shrunk 8,000 lines of code down to 240,” noted David Arnott, electrical and computing engineering junior.

SAE AERO DESIGN EAST

For Senior Design, students work together on a project, with a deadline of the last week of classes for their presentation. One group decided to get done earlier. The eight person group of Salman Chaudri, Janey Stum, Ryan Thomas, Cameron Williams, Luke Bizal, Jessica Hampson, Jeremy Ninan, and Kenneth Rentz put together a plane for the SAE Aero Design East competition that took place the weekend before Senior Design presentations started.

The group finished 14th overall of 40 teams in the Regular Class, sixth among US-based schools, and best among Keystone State schools, placing higher than Penn State and Robert Morris University.

After previous teams struggled in the contest, this year’s group, who worked on it as a Senior Design project, focused on consistent performance. In the competition, it paid off. “It flew successfully every time and we didn’t try to do anything crazy with it,” said Hampson. “That’s why it worked.” While other groups attempted to fly with large payloads to start, attempting to get bonus points, Temple’s group kept the initial payload low and then gradually increased over their runs. They managed to go from a five-pound payload at the start to 6.085 pounds by the end. The team finished 12th in the flight score, their best placing in the three judged events.

The group hopes this project becomes a mainstay in senior design and future classes can compete (apparently having eight people, while big for Senior Design, is a good starting point for this event). They believe future groups can improve upon their design, carry more payloads, and possibly win the competition in a few years.

LIVINGSTONE UNDERGRADUATE RESEARCH AWARDS

Two College of Engineering students won awards in the university-wide contest for their work in Technical Communications last year with Joseph Danowsky. 2nd year Civil Engineering major Andrew Bertolazzi won the Sustainability Award, while 2nd year Bioengineering major Hasan Zaidi won the STEM award. Six students overall took awards for the contest.