Engineering students prepare for robotics competition


Ashanka Kumari

A team of eight UA electrical engineering seniors will compete at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers SoutheastCon April 5-6 in Jacksonville, Fla.

The team, known as “The A Team,” was formed from students in the ECE 492/494 course that volunteered for this particular project, said Kenneth Ricks, associate professor for electrical and computer engineering and faculty advisor for the team. The course is a two-semester series often referred to as “senior design.”

“The students’ goal is to design, fabricate, test and operate a robot that is capable of meeting all of the requirements for the 2013 SoutheastCon Hardware Competition that is part of the IEEE SoutheastCon Regional conference,” Ricks said.

Ricks said the rules for the competition change each year.

“For this year, the robot must be able to sort cargo according to size and color,” Ricks said. “There are 14 total cargo blocks, and the robot has 5 minutes to correctly sort as many blocks as possible. Points are allocated for each cargo block correctly placed in its corresponding delivery zone.

“The robot is completely autonomous meaning that once the start button has been pressed, there is no operator control. The robot must sense its environment on its own, perform all of its own movements and make its own decisions.”

Sarah Betzig, a member of the team, said she and team members broke the robot down into subsystems – detection, navigation, chassis, power, motors, coding, gripper and unloading – and delegated each subsystem to two team members, a primary, or leader, and a secondary, or supporter. Betzig is the primary for the color detection subsystem and secondary for the navigation subsystem.

“Depending on how far along the project is, some subsystems need more time put into them than others,” Betzig said. “Right now, we are focusing on system integration and smoothing out our software algorithm. However, all team members spend time in the lab daily to support the other members and continue working on the robot.”

Along with Betzig, team members include seniors Charles McVay, Boyang Li, Jordan Miller, Corey Dean, Matthew O’Brien, Kaylan Champion and Alexander Bradshaw.

Miller, primary focal for the power system and secondary focal for the gripper subsystem, said the structure of the robot was brainstormed by the team during the proposal process.

“The goals more oriented to the class include creating a proposal, two design reviews, a final presentation and a final demo,” Miller said. “We have completed everything except the final presentation and demo.”

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