Student-designed robots compete for final course mark in annual robot competition
For the last 21 years Dalhousie engineering students have competed in an annual robot design competition. This year's theme of the competition is "Robot Survivor! Out-Strategize, Out-Design and Out-Execute" and robots must navigate an obstacle course, light a fake fire, then return to the start of the course and raise their team flag to win. The competition takes place on Thursday, August 2nd at the Sexton Memorial Gym at 1360 Barrington Street. Preliminary rounds go from 1-2:30 p.m. and 3-4:30 p.m. Finals begin at 6 p.m.
Third-year engineering students in the Design Methods II course work in teams of two to design a robot that can then compete in the annual competition. The students receive a supply kit and are only allowed to use what's in the kit to build their robots. All classes and labs in the course are dedicated to preparing for the competition and the robot's performance is evaluated and reflected in the final mark for the course. The competition is central to the course's success.
This year, the robot must find its way from the start line of the obstacle course to the fire starting station, press a button to start the fake fire, then return to the start line and press another button to release the team's flag. The robot must be able to complete this on its own without any remote controls.
While students can do test runs on temporary obstacle courses during their building process, the final obstacle course is unveiled on competition day. Therefore, students are advised to build their robots with several strategies and back-up plans in place.
"The main objective of the course is to learn how to design in general—design methods. The students learn how to take a big project and divide it into small chunks to break down and design and build on their own, then integrate them all together in the end." -- Dr. Sara Stout-Grandy, Assistant Professor, Design Methods II
"What the students are learning in terms of troubleshooting and debugging these kinds of circuits is something they'll use if they do this work in the real world." -- Dr. Sara Stout-Grandy, Assistant Professor, Design Methods II
"There's a lot of innovation. One of the groups this year has a very neat way of doing metal detection in their design—a way which I had never seen before—and it works really well." -- Dr. Sara Stout-Grandy, Assistant Professor, Design Methods II
"You learn that nothing will ever go right the first time no matter how well you plan it. It's all about anticipating, but then adapting when you have to." -- Stuart Lynch, third-year engineering student
Student Kathleen Svensdon works on her robot in preparation for last year's competition. (2011)
- Dr. Sara Stout-Grandy, Assistant Professor, Dalhousie University, 902-449-8174, email@example.com