Scene on Campus

Robot race

A class project for engineering students.

The final project of Mechanical Engineering 185 always involves a little competition. This year, the 21 students each received four small motors, a sheet of aluminum, a solar panel, and a bagful of nuts, bolts, and wheels, and were told to design and build a robot vehicle. The craft had to be able to capture and convert the light from a 1000-watt stage lamp into enough power to travel forward for 10 feet, pick up a small wooden block, and carry it back to the starting line.

Julie Brown

Julie Brown

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It was a nerve-racking and high-stakes game. On May 1 in Davies Auditorium, the robots were racing against the clock—the trip had to be completed within two and a half minutes—and each other. And the students behind the winning robots would get special consideration, gradewise.

Here, Phil Clopton ’08 (foreground), the designated driver for Alice Buttrick ’10, bests Carl Zhou (far left), a North Haven high school student taking the class, while Daniel Jimenez ’09 (center) and Hannah Waldenberger ’11 watch.

In the end, after eight rounds of double-elimination racing, Ryan Carlisle ’11 won, his vehicle covering the distance in times as fast as 88 seconds. Did the losers fail the course? No, says David LaVan, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “If you can analyze well what went wrong, you're OK.”


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