Engineers Build Robots For Design Competition

Elise Foley

By Elise Foley The Daily Northwestern

Team Nomec captured the flag – and $4,000 – at the 2007 Design Competition on Saturday at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center.

The team of McCormick juniors Michael Hwang and Thomas Quach won the tournament after their robot completed the designated course in fewer than 20 seconds in each round.

The McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science competition brought together 14 teams of up to five members to build robots that could complete a course and a series of tasks without a remote control. The course varies year to year, but this year it required the robots to pick up a flag and place it in a box to complete the race, said competition chairwoman Stephanie Daudt, a McCormick senior.

Hwang said he enjoyed putting his engineering skills to use during the competition, which requires skills in programming and building to make the robot.

“In our classes we learn a lot of theory, but here we put it into practice,” Hwang said. “It was more of a real-world thing.”

It was the first year the team competed in the event, Hwang said. Their name, Nomec, stands for “No mechanical engineers.”

Hwang said they spent about five hours per week working on the robot since they were allowed to begin work Jan. 4.

Their robot was able to complete the course in each round of the tournament, whereas many others went off course or did not start running at the beginning. Hwang said their robot had about a 90 percent success rate in practice rounds.

“Once in a while something would happen and (the robot) would get lost,” Hwang said. “In the end we didn’t fix it, but it didn’t show up during competition day. We got lucky with that.”

The second place team, Shepard Robotics, also said luck was part of their success in the tournament. McCormick freshmen Sam Bobb and Ren Chung Yu lost in the first round but won each round after to make the final round in the double-elimination tournament.

“We were basically aiming to not embarrass ourselves,” Bobb said. “I was hoping we would be kind of middle-of-the-road.”

The competition was time-consuming, but Bobb said he got something more than just the $2,000 prize out of the tournament.

“Between the Design Competition and taking my first electrical engineering class, I decided I want to major in electrical engineering,” Bobb said. “So it’s allowed me to decide where I want to go with my life, basically.”

The Budnik team placed third in the tournament. McCormick juniors Andrea Carter, Beth Carter and Molly Thompson and McCormick senior Alfred Shoukry received a $1,000 prize.

Team Daedalus – McCormick senior John Otto, junior Andrew Mazotas and sophomore Lefteris Gdoutos – won a special award of $800 for elegant engineering given by engineering firm Northrop Grumman. The firm gave the award in honor of former employee Myke Minbiole, a Design Competition winner and McCormick alumnus. Minbiole was killed in a hit-and-run accident April 29. The event was dedicated to him this year.

There were also other prizes at the event with $100 cash prizes, ranging from “Most Innovative Robot” to “Sexiest Robot.”

Hundreds stopped by during the course of the event, which competition chairwoman Daudt said she saw as a success.

“It’s a great event that brings a large variety of McCormick majors in,” Daudt said. “It gets people out of the classroom and doing engineering.”

Reach Elise Foley at [email protected]