A team of four University of Michigan-Flint engineering students recently entered their specialized robot in a competition sponsored by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The competition attracted 21 teams from universities and colleges throughout the Midwest. Despite being up against some very experienced teams, the UM-Flint team managed to capture a third place finish.
This year, the competition involved building a Robot for Relief. It had to be able to deliver aid, including clean water, food, fuel, and medical supplies to places such as the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan. It had to travel over uneven and rough terrain, in tight spaces, and over long distances to help those in need.
This year's challenge was to design and develop a scaled-down version of a transporter capable of delivering granular materials, and controlled by, at most, one person.
The UM-Flint team spent September to December designing and testing components that would be used to build the robot. Construction and testing occurred in the second semester.
Seniors Xiaoyi Ma, Olugbadebo Adeyemi, Kawshik Ahmed, and Siwen Zhao selected the robot as their senior capstone project.
Several other UM-Flint engineering students presented their senior design projects to campus in April, including a solar boat, prototype airplane, computerized numerical control machine (CNC), and a food grade latch clamp. The students in the Robots for Relief project were at the Wisconsin event the day of the campus presentations.
"We wanted to do a project that had the potential for a profound impact on the world by helping to deliver goods to people in need in difficult areas to reach," said Ma.
The team knew they were going against teams that had years of robotic building experience. They focused on making sure their robot was going to everything it was built to do.
The UM-Flint team was 17th on the list to compete. As the competition got underway, the teams confidence began to grow.
"As we watched the other teams, we could tell their robots were not going to work. In fact, 15 of the first 16 robots failed making it through the special course," observed Adeyemi.
Besides learning what it takes to build a robot, Siwen Zhao said the experience helped sharpen her communication and teamwork skills.
The students credit the support they received from the department, plus the financial support that came from both the department and Student Government. They spent about $500 building the Robot for Relief.
The video of the robot during competition has been posted to YouTube:
Professor of mechanical engineering Quamrul Mazumder said the project was a great example of the capstone projects engineering students take on in their senior EGR 466 course. "This is another milestone of the UM-Flint engineering program, winning a national design competition and demonstrating the high quality of the program," said Mazumder. "I encouraged the students to participate and compete because their design was of superior quality."