Electrical Engineering students' mechanized creations vie for top 'bot billing

FROM Rob Harrill
(206) 543-2580
Rosemary Coleman
(206) 221-5290
WHO University of Washington senior electrical engineering students, their instructor and judges.
WHAT A competition featuring small, self-guiding robots built by the students as a senior design project.
WHEN Monday Dec. 4 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
WHERE Rm 419 in the OLD Electrical Engineering Building on the UW Campus.

Thirty-five senior Electrical Engineering students are gearing up for a mechanical fight on Monday to see who has created the top robot in a competition that provides the climax for a new senior design course in mobile robotics. The students, divided into teams of three, have built 13 autonomous robots. The robots will attempt to navigate an obstacle course that includes a miniature forest and a river, negotiable via a small ferry.

The robots are fashioned from a framework of LEGO building blocks and contain microcontrollers (which are programmed by the students), motors, sensors, wheels and other apparatus to help the creations make their way as quickly as possible through the course. According to Linda Bushnell, assistant professor of electrical engineering and course instructor, the students are employing a variety of designs, including one robot that will scurry about on mechanical legs. The new robotics course was proposed by three recently graduated electrical engineering seniors as a means of allowing students to learn about embedded design fundamentals through hands-on experience. Their idea to use LEGO building blocks to create autonomous robots won two awards last June and has formed the basis for a series of three classes now taught each quarter. One of the graduates, Michael Taylor, will help judge Monday's contest.

To attend the robot competition or to set up interviews, contact Rosemary Coleman at rcoleman@ee.washington.edu or (206) 221-5290.