students preparing robotics presentation

In an inspired move that would make the DIY crowd proud, Oregon State University senior Heather Rysenga used a glue gun to make last-minute repairs on a robot she and her teammates had been working on all term in their Applied Robotics class.

Rysenga, an electrical and computer engineering student, and her teammates Kelvin Lee, a mechanical engineering senior, and Bennett Rand, a computer science junior, scrambled to make adjustments to their robot just before their final, which was a little more nerve-wracking than the usual bluebook test. It took place in the Kelley Engineering Center atrium with a crowd looking on, and it was a direct robotics competition with their classmates.

Assistant professor Jonathan Hurst in the School of Mechanical, Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, leads the Applied Robotics course. The object of the game, called “Crossfire,” is for the robots to push a puck across the opposing player’s line without touching or interacting with the robots, which have been programmed to be fully autonomous.

“I’ve seen some of the leading teams fire 60 BB’s per second or more,” Hurst said, “while tracking the moving puck, so it should make for some exciting games.”

For Team 2, the exciting part was figuring out if their robot would work at all.

 “We need a hot glue gun because things are falling apart,” Rysenga said. For the better part of an hour, she was darting back and forth, checking connections, gluing things down, and occasionally getting frustrated.

“Uh, that came out again,” she said, poking another wire back into place. After darting out for more supplies, and a couple of last minute applications of the glue gun, things began to look up.

“There we go, all better!” she said, pumping her arms into the air.

Although some teams built robots that automatically loaded their bbs, Team 2 used a silver funnel, an homage to the Tin Man. And although the team had a lot of heart, their first attempt, against Team 5, didn’t go quite so well.

“What worked is that the shooter shot as best as it could,” Rand said round one. “But theirs was better.”

Even though they lost the first round, the teammates were pleased that things worked at all, and the robot behaved as they’d designed it to do.

“It’s been fun,” Rand said. “Every team has something they’d want to be doing better,” he said, but focusing on automation, having the machines think on their own, was the most challenging and rewarding part of the project.

Rand isn’t a stranger to such concepts. At home, he’s working on a temperature-sensing network, and next plans to create a device to automatically turn lights on and off.

Lee said the best part about the class was working with other students from different disciplines.

“It might help me to have these experiences to benefit my career,” he said. And he was happy with the result of his robot as well. “It works better than I expected.”

--Theresa Hogue

Published Date: 
Wednesday, June 12, 2013