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UA robotics team finishes 4th at IEEE SoutheastCon

Ashanka Kumari

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A team of eight UA electrical engineering seniors placed fourth out of 51 teams at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers SoutheastCon Hardware Competition last week.

Kenneth Ricks, associate professor for electrical and computer engineering and faculty advisor for the team, said the competition was comprised of three preliminary rounds and a finals round.

“The scores from each of the three preliminary rounds were totaled and the top eight schools advanced to the finals,” Ricks said. “UA had a total score of 1,700, which placed them in second place after the preliminary rounds.

“In the finals, the teams were seeded and went head-to-head in an eight-team bracket. UA finished fourth in the finals.”

For this year, the team had to design a robot that was completely autonomous, which means that once the start button was pressed, there was no operator control, Ricks said.

Sarah Betzig, a member of the team, said she and team members broke the robot down into subsystems – detection, navigation, chassis, power, motors, coding, gripper and unloading – and delegated each subsystem to two team members, a primary, or leader, and a secondary, or supporter. Betzig was the primary for the color detection subsystem and secondary for the navigation subsystem.

Ricks said team members had mixed feelings about their placement.

“The UA team members are both happy and disappointed at the same time in their fourth-place finish,” he said. “They did an outstanding job at the competition and received many compliments on their robot design.”

During the full day of competition, the UA team, known as “The A Team,” had to overcome several challenges.

“Because the competition hosts provided their own courses, different from the course we had to practice on, we spent several hours at the conference, fine-tuning our robot to their courses,” Betzig said. “We brought equipment to the conference and set up a mini version of our Capstone lab, which we used to calibrate the robot on-site.

“We had to work through a few unexpected circumstances, such as adjusting the voltage on one of our power rails. Bringing tools such as an oscilloscope, multimeter and wireless debugging module was very helpful for preparing the robot to run on the competition courses.”

Kaylan Champion, the primary on chassis, secondary on power and administrator for the team, said the A Team’s robot design received many positive comments.

“We received numerous compliments on our robot throughout the competition, and people were so interested in our design that they wanted to take pictures or sit down and ask us questions about it,” Champion said. “Since everyone at the conference knew our robot and that we were from UA, it showed us that we did not have to finish first to make a statement at the completion.”

This week, the Alabama team will be demonstrating their robot at the Adtran Corporation in Huntsville, Ala.

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UA robotics team finishes 4th at IEEE SoutheastCon