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January 29, 2013

Ohio University engineering students three-peat at autonomous snowplow competition 

Electrical engineering students from Ohio University’s Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology took home the winning snow globe trophy for the third year running from the Institute of Navigation’s (ION) third annual autonomous snowplow competition, held Jan. 24-27 in St. Paul, Minn. 

They trumped seven other universities, including Case Western Reserve University, Miami University of Ohio and University of Michigan, which sent three teams. 

Held as part of the city’s annual winter carnival, the four-day event tasks students to design, build and operate a fully autonomous snowplow that uses state-of-the art navigation and control technologies to rapidly, accurately and safely clear a path of snow from “I” and “double-I” shaped courses. 

Hundreds of locals, as well as sponsors and recruiters from companies such as Honeywell, Boeing and Lockheed Martin, lined up in freezing rain to watch the show. 

OHIO’s team M.A.C.S., for "monocular autonomously controlled snowplow," swept the events, placing first in the preliminary design review, student presentation, student paper and both of the two plowing contests, winning $6,000 for their efforts. 

Undergraduate student Ryan Kollar worked with graduate students Samantha Craig, Pengfei Duan, Kuangmin Li and Adam Naab-Levy to improve last year’s winning design. 

Kollar said the competition was one of the most interesting experiences in his life. 

“I have gained so much knowledge, not only in the field of electrical engineering, but also, mechanical, programming, managerial and organization, as well as teamwork,” he said. 

The team’s 600-pound, four-wheel-drive robot used a 360-degree scanning laser to determine the distance and angle toward beacons placed around the field. M.A.C.S. can find its position within an inch, and its heading within half a degree. 

“Being a part of this project has been invaluable to my education,” Craig said. “Working hands-on to solve real-world problems has taught me more than I could ever learn in a classroom environment.” 

Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering Wouter Pelgrum, Edmund K. Cheng Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Maarten Uijt de Haag and Russ Professor Frank Van Graas advised the team.

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