UE Seniors Win High Honors in Robotics Competitions

Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Two teams of University of Evansville senior engineering students earned awards at robotics competitions this past weekend. Jordan Stoltz and Eric Whitney, both of Evansville, won first place in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) SoutheastCon Hardware Competition in Jacksonville, Florida, while Lucas Phillips of Gentryville, Indiana, and Dan Scheller of Evansville placed second and were the top-finishing collegiate team in the senior division of the Trinity College Fire Fighting Robot Competition in Hartford, Connecticut.

Both robots were designed and built as students’ senior capstone projects at UE. Whitney, Phillips, and Scheller are electrical engineering majors, and Stoltz is majoring in computer engineering.

“The University of Evansville’s outstanding performance in these competitions proves that our engineering program is truly among the best in the nation,” said Mark Randall, the faculty advisor for both teams and a UE instructor of electrical engineering. “As these students prepare to graduate next month, I’m confident the skills and experiences they gained from these projects will serve them well in their future careers.”

At the IEEE SoutheastCon Hardware Competition, which took place April 5-6, Stoltz and Whitney competed against 51 teams that represented universities such as Duke University, The Citadel, Virginia Tech, and Clemson University. Stoltz and Whitney received an $800 cash prize and trophy for their first-place finish.

The IEEE SoutheastCon Hardware Competition required that robots simulate the sorting of containers and packages at a port, picking up different colored and sized boxes and sorting them for shipping by rail, sea, or air. Teams were scored based on the number of packages their robot picked up and correctly sorted during a specified time period.

To increase the difficulty of the competition, the “air” dock was located on the top of a ramp with no edges. If the robot was able to deliver these blocks, a large bonus was awarded. UE’s “Lefty,” named for the way it picked up blocks on its left side, was the only robot in the competition to successfully deliver packages to this area of the track.

“This project was one of the most difficult challenges I’ve ever seen students undertake, so I’m incredibly proud to see Jordan and Eric earn national recognition for their work,” Randall said.

In the Trinity College Fire Fighting Robot Competition, held April 6-7, teams were scored on the time it takes an autonomous robot to navigate a maze, locate a burning candle, and extinguish the flame. UE’s Phillips and Scheller competed against 48 teams from around the nation and worldwide, including teams from Brazil and Indonesia.

In addition to a second-place finish in the senior division (open to college students and above), UE’s entry — dubbed the “Great White Buffalo” for its boxy, white appearance — won the $500 cash prize Versa Valve challenge for achieving the best score while using a Versa Valve, a type of directional control valve.

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