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UH Engineering Students Compete in Robotics Competition

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Erin D. McKenzie
Electrical and computer engineering students compete in the 2008 IEEE Robotics Competition. Pictured are (from top left to right) Nicole Stewart, Dustin Reynolds, Kalpesh Patel, Lahiru Jinadasa, (bottom left to right) Anita Shah, Akshaya Koshy and Jhonny Feng. Not pictured: Wolly Ekanayake.
Electrical and computer engineering students compete in the 2008 IEEE Robotics Competition. Pictured are (from top left to right) Nicole Stewart, Dustin Reynolds, Kalpesh Patel, Lahiru Jinadasa, (bottom left to right) Anita Shah, Akshaya Koshy and Jhonny Feng. Not pictured: Wolly Ekanayake.

University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering students were recognized on April 19 for the design and performance of one of two robots entered in the 2008 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Region 5 Technical, Professional and Student Conference.

The student robotics competition, one of a handful of contests featured at the three-day conference, brought 30 teams to Kansas City to evaluate the lifting ability, motion control, color sensing, wireless communication and speed of each team’s autonomous robot during three rounds of competition.

More specifically, it challenged students to build robots capable of picking up three canisters of varied weights and delivering them to the appropriate colored box.

UH students Nicole Stewart, Dustin Reynolds, Anita Shah and Akshaya Koshy were among 10 teams to make it through the first two rounds of competition—where they were ranked first.  A small mechanical problem in the final round resulted in the team finishing in fifth place.

“Had they completed their round as they had before, they would have won the competition, since they had the fastest robot at the competition,” said Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor John R. Glover, who advised the students during development of their robots for the competition.
The team’s placement did not stop them from taking home an award for “Best Design/Technology” at the awards banquet.

“It was a complete surprise,” said Nicole Stewart, senior electrical engineering student, of the award. “It was nice to be recognized even though we didn’t make it in the top three.”

A processor-resetting problem kept the second UH team—Lahiru Jinadasa, Wolly Ekanayake, Jhonny Feng and Kalpesh Patel—from advancing to the final round of competition.

The two teams were from UH’s Electrical and Computer Engineering Senior Design Course. All eight students had been developing and testing their robots in the department’s Robotics Laboratory—which receives funding from Schlumberger—since the end of the fall semester.

It’s a road several other UH engineering teams have been down previously.

Under the direction of Glover, engineering students have been contenders in the competition since 2000. During these eight years, UH teams have taken home one second, one third, two fourth, one fifth and one sixth place win.

At this year’s awards banquet, Glover was recognized for the support he has given to competing students as well as his devotion to IEEE with the 2007 Individual Outstanding Achievement Award.

“I appreciate it,” Glover said of the award. “It (the competition) is the most fun thing I do. I get to watch them (students) do a good job, be part of a team, it’s great.”

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