Two robotics teams from the University of Houston will compete in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Region 5 Student Robotics Competition on April 20 at the NASA Hilton. The UH teams were chosen according to the results of a run-off race held last Friday in the Cullen College of Engineering.
Electrical engineering professor John Glover, the teams' supervisor and founder of the ECE Robotics Lab, hosted this first ECE Robotics Run-off Competition. The two teams that will represent UH in the competition are Team 1: Melvin Abraham, Robert Fisher, Wilson Mathew, Sanjay Shenoy and Christy Varghese, and Team 2: Josh Hugg, Bradley Koch, Mary Saulog, Nrupa Shah and Arthur Vasquez.
"Robots are an excellent way of supporting electrical and computer engineering education," says Glover. What makes the construction of these robots so challenging is that they are "autonomous" robots. Unlike the robots built for most high school competitions, these robots cannot be remote-controlled. A computer program that reads the input from the robots' infrared, sonar and touch sensors must direct their movements.
Once a robot is placed at the beginning of the maze, no human intervention is allowed. The robot must sense its environment. The sensors must be able to center the robot between two walls without making it weave from side to side. The sensors must also detect two black lines painted on the white ground at the end of the maze. As a robot passes over the double lines, a photocell should detect the difference in color, sound a buzzer and send a stop signal to the computer program.
The race consisted of two separate runs, each with a mapping part, during which the robot explores and records the maze, and a racing part. Glover switched the walls of the maze around between the first and second run to make the competition more challenging. Electrical engineering professors Stuart Long and Dave Shattuck "refereed" the competition and scored each team.
Members of the first UH robotics team, Todd Powell, Satyajit Ketkar, Nathan Howard, Reed Hablinkski and R. J. Mate, initiated UH's involvement in the IEEE competition three years ago. Several of the original team members attended the run-off.
Other engineering students will have the opportunity to participate in robotics competitions beginning in early June, when Glover will announce the challenge for the fall semester's robot competition.