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WKU electrical engineering team wins IEEE regional robotics competition

WKU electrical engineering students, faculty and staff who traveled to IEEE Southeastcon 2010 are (from left): Billy Seng of Louisville; Dr. Mark Cambron, associate professor; Matthew Lodmell of Frankfort; Jason Whitehouse of Utica; Ron Rizzo, staff engineer; Dr. Michael McIntyre, assistant professor; Nermin Peimanovic of Bowling Green; team captain Daniel Childress of Bowling Green; Andrew Ayre of Gallatin, Tenn.; Dr. Stacy Wilson, professor; Drew Bewley of Bowling Green; and Randy Fulling of Oakland City, Ind.

A solar-powered robot designed and built by WKU electrical engineering students won the Hardware Competition in this weekend’s IEEE Southeastcon 2010 in Charlotte, N.C.

WKU was among 44 colleges and universities from the southeastern United States and Jamaica that competed in the event hosted by IEEE, the nation’s largest electrical engineering professional organization.

The IEEE’s Southeast Conference 2010 focused on renewable energy and the use of green energy in autonomous vehicles. Teams had to create a robot that could traverse a set course of obstacles and terrain in three minutes with only “solar” energy for fuel. The robots had to be totally empty of energy at the start.

WKU's robot took top honors in IEEE regional competition.

A third-place finish after three preliminary rounds qualified WKU for the winner-take-all final round against Mississippi State and Florida. In the final round, WKU’s robot posted the best run to win the competition.

“Ours was by far the lightest and smallest robot in the competition,” said Dr. Julie Ellis, head of WKU’s Engineering Department. “Using the rapid prototyping capabilities here at WKU Engineering, we were able to ‘3D print’ the structural parts of the robot to be absolutely as small and light as possible, while retaining enough strength to withstand competition. And the circuitry was minimized to perform only the necessary functions so that it used very little power.

“By keeping the robot light and the technology simple, we made the most effective use of the very limited ‘solar’ energy available with a robust system that could be easily modified during the competition.”

Other teams competing at the event included Kentucky, Louisville, Murray State, Tennessee Tech, Tennessee, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, Alabama-Birmingham and Alabama-Huntsville.

Dr. Ellis said the results showed the quality of WKU’s electrical engineering program. “Our students drew on other trouble-shooting experiences, from their preparation for the contest and from project experiences in earlier classes, especially the Electrical Engineering Freshman Bug experience, to respond to issues that developed in Charlotte,” she said.

Students who traveled to IEEE Southeastcon 2010 on March 18-21 were: team captain Daniel Childress of Bowling Green; Randy Fulling of Oakland City, Ind.; Billy Seng of Louisville; Jason Whitehouse of Utica; Andrew Ayre of Gallatin, Tenn.; Matthew Lodmell of Frankfort; Drew Bewley of Bowling Green; Nermin Peimanovic of Bowling Green.

Electrical engineering faculty and staff attending the event were: Dr. Stacy Wilson, professor; Dr. Mark Cambron, associate professor; Dr. Michael McIntyre, assistant professor; and Ron Rizzo, staff engineer.

The Department of Engineering will celebrate the team’s success at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday in the Complex for Engineering and Biological Sciences. A display in the lobby includes video, the robot, a trophy and plaque of previous winners.

Contact: Michael McIntyre, (270) 745-5877.

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