The reigning national champion autonomous snowplow team from Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology plowed through a towering Miami University Redhawks logo in support of OHIO’s football matchup Saturday in Athens.
A group of more than 10 Russ College students, faculty and staff commandeered the south end zone in front of almost 22,000 attendees, and built a 10x7-foot wall of boxes bearing the Miami logo to show off the robotic snowplow’s stuff.
To the delight of OHIO fans, the boxy robot with eight chunky tires – pulling university mascot Rufus in a custom-built, trailer-mounted, Create-for-Good “battle wagon” – crashed through the logo wall during the first-quarter break as part of the Russ College’s sponsorship of the game.
“It was great having three years’ worth of students from snowplow competitions working together again on such a creative project, sharing the engineering challenges – and the success,” said the snowplow team’s faculty adviser Wouter Pelgrum, assistant professor of electrical engineering. “We work very closely with Miami University on various research projects, including the snowplow competition, which makes for some fun, friendly rivalry,” he added.
The autonomous technology can be used to plow snow and assist farmers with crop management, and even in search-and-rescue missions to save lives.
“We showed that engineering is more than hard science: Working together to solve complicated problems can be an amazing experience,” Pelgrum said.
Two Russ College videos were also screened on Peden Stadium’s Jumbotron. One touted the snowplow team’s three-peat, and the other gave sports fans a glimpse at how engineers and technologists at the college create for good by improving society with their innovations.
Russ College Dean Dennis Irwin was featured in a halftime Ohio News Network radio interview broadcast on 15 radio affiliates across southeastern Ohio, Columbus and parts of West Virginia.
Irwin cited the snowplow team as one of the ways students can get involved beyond the classroom so they’re ready to contribute to not just the workplace but also their communities as soon as they graduate.
“With opportunities like the snowplow and other competition teams, they get a chance to exercise their communication and team-building skills, and see how they can make a difference in the world while bringing classroom material to life,” he said.
The snowplow beat out seven other schools, including Miami, Case Western Reserve University and the University of Michigan, at the Institute of Navigation’s annual Autonomous Snowplow competition in January.