FIU Robots

Some looked like cartoon characters, some like utilitarian transport vehicles and some others were not that easily identifiable but all of the robots in the First Annual Robot Competition were the end result of hours of planning, testing and building by students enrolled in Engineering Orientation.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Instructor Wilmer Arellano organized the competition as a way of engaging the creativity of young engineers, most of whom had not yet completed their first semester as college students. Wendy Ordonez and Victoria Carney-Paine from Counseling and Psychological Services organized giveaways, games and prizes, including gift cards of $500, $300 and $200 for the winners. “Learning assistants built the tracks, faculty prepared the students, and the students did the rest,” Arellano says.

Each team received a kit of components to build their robots, Autonomous Navigation Vehicles that needed to complete a tour of a closed track in minimal time.

The robots were judged on accuracy as they made their way around the track, speed, aesthetics and a video that was scored for entertainment, creativity and execution. The winning team, Arturo Aduino (Jeffrey Dorsey, Benjamin Olmos de Aguilera, Daniel Robles, Eli Ruiz and Rickie Tablada), crafted a Mini Cooper-themed design out of dry foam, testing it on a makeshift track of sneakers, speakers and empty boxes. Robles and Olmos de Aguilera, both freshmen, were in charge of the aesthetics portion, which they finalized in the early morning hours the day of the competition. They were not the only ones.

While he was making sure everything was ready for the contest, Arellano stopped by the Panther Pit at 2:30 a.m. and saw it was full of students who were still tinkering with their robots.

A total of 40 teams demonstrated their homemade robots to a packed house, including President Mark B. Rosenberg and Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Lunsford. “This room full of students represents the best and the brightest of tomorrow’s engineers,” said President Rosenberg. “I know that with the guidance of our outstanding faculty, our students’ projects will only continue to get better and better.”

By all accounts, the contest was a success. Marcelo Alvarado and his teammates did not win a prize that day but they plan to keep working on their robot. “It wasn’t perfect enough,” Alvarado says.

By Robyn Nissim