Students fight robots to avoid taking finals

As flying projectiles struck their targets, cheers of joy or disappointment rang through the mechanical engineering department’s annual competition Friday.

“Today is the ultimate accuracy competition. It is the design competition for our introduction to robotics system design class for all of our freshman students,” said Andrew Merryweather, an assistant professor with the Mechanical Engineering Ergonomics and Safety Program.

The competition has taken place every year for the past five years but Merryweather said the actual challenge changes from year to year.

The competition pitted 44 teams of four against each other. The goal was to create a robot that could move from a starting line to a spot on the floor and then accurately launch a projectile to a target. The top three teams could opt out of taking the final for their class.

“All of the teams that have built robots all semester long compete with one another for the ultimate accurate robot,” Merryweather said.

This year’s competition focused on accuracy.

“We have a launching projectile portion and a driving distance. So there’s an accuracy line for the driving distance and a projectile target that is a certain distance away and the teams have done calculations and design to those criteria,” Merryweather said.

Merryweather said the assignment was handed out about a month into the fall semester.

“They haven’t had that long, about nine or 10 weeks from start to finish when we announced the project and to go through the process of designing the robots,” Merryweather said.

Not only did the challenge aim to test student’s ability to create a good design, but to do it on the cheap as well. Each team was given a budget of $50 to create their projectile delivery system.

Multiple teams hit on target and some hit right near the bull’s eye. Other teams did not hit anywhere near the target or had delivery systems breaking down.

“We did alright in the first round, we’re waiting for the second round. Our catapult broke and we’re in the process of repairing it,” said Ben Brown, a member of the team in Big Kids Engineering and a freshman in mechanical engineering.

With success and failure happening all around them, students in the competition were fully aware of what being in the top three teams meant.

“Avoid the final at all costs, that’s the hope for everyone here. It’s going to be pretty ridiculous,” Brown said.

Students understood how much real world mechanical engineering experience the competition gave them.

“It’s definitely been useful, trying to do the calculations, figuring everything out before you actually physically build it. It’s some good real world experience,” Brown said.