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Engineering and technology students bring home tech, robotics contest wins

Colleen Carow and Elisabeth Weems | Nov 13, 2017
Robotics Club

Engineering and technology students bring home tech, robotics contest wins

Colleen Carow and Elisabeth Weems | Nov 13, 2017

Ohio University engineering technology and management (ETM) students placed third and fourth in technology and robotics challenges at a national conference earlier this month.

About 50 students from 11 institutions around the nation convened for the competitions and to network with fellow engineers and technologists, attend workshops, at the Association of Technology, Mechanics and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) 2017 Conference, held Nov. 1-3 in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Senior Alex Shermak landed third in the Haig Vahradian technology challenge, a Jeopardy-style, single-elimination competition in which students race for a buzzer to answer questions on manufacturing, communication, construction, safety, electronics, energy, quality, and management. Another senior, Tucker Smith, placed fourth.

A group of additional ETM students -- seniors Kevin Alexander, Casey Kempton, Brandon Mahr, Matthew Mezzio and Tucker Smith, also known as the team ETM Competition Robotics – placed fourth in the robotics competition.

"The ATMAE Conference is a chance for the students to apply what they have learned in class to a real project,” said Curtis Cohenour, assistant professor of engineering technology and management. “While it’s fun, the challenges are similar to what they will face in industry – everything from deadlines to noisy measurements."

The robotics team – newly formed this academic year -- tested their robot, “Bobcat Remote Object Manipulator (B.R.O.M.),” before a panel of judges and in two primary events.

The cornhole contest tasked them with controlled the robot to acquire sand-filled hacky sacks from various locations then place them in cornhole boxes – rectangular, wooden boxes with a hole in the center. The flag capture contest challenged them with obtaining a competitor’s flag from its home base.

"The robotics team from Ohio University performed exceedingly well, especially for a team who has never competed in this competition before,” said Neil Littell, assistant professor of engineering technology and management, and national president of the student division for ATMAE.

The team says they aim to excel at building and applying robotics technologies, and to build a reputation and tradition in robotics within ETM. "I was very happy with how we did for a first-year organization," Kempton said.

None of the team members had previous involvement with robotics teams or competitions, so they applied concepts learned in their ETM classes, such as programming an adrenal board and circuit design. For concepts not learned in class, they consulted YouTube tutorials.

“We started by asking, ‘What do we know and what have we done before?’ Smith said. “And then we needed to figure out what needed to be done to complete each stage of the challenge, and which components matched those requirements. Then, we tried to limit the number of components as possible for simplicity’s sake.”

Smith said the team used a Tetrix kit to build their robot, placing a pre-made Arduino Braccio Robotic Arm onto its base. However, they did design and 3D print some components, including infrared and line tracker mounts, which helped sense and stabilize objects during the challenge. The team did all wiring and mechanical engineering themselves to connect the arm to the sensors, motor and a hand-held controller.

“The robotic arm has a lot of versatility and is able to accomplish most of the tasks since it can lift, pull and tug on objects,” Kempton added, explaining that the technology is actually used in industrial robotics.

The team will now focus its efforts on recruiting more students and plans to partner with other Russ College student organizations to coordinate a game night.

“Don’t be scared to take on something new if you have no prior robotics experience,” Kempton advises fellow students. “It doesn’t matter -- because we’ll sit down with you and teach you whatever you want to know. You’re only going to get out as much as you put in.”