Colorado State University’s walking machine team will defend its title at an international competition that challenges students to design the best and fastest computerized walking machines.
The annual competition will be held on the University of Northern Illinois campus May 2. The Colorado State team, composed of eight undergraduate mechanical engineering students, has won the Society of Automotive Engineers Robotic Walking Machine Decathlon in eight of the past 11 years.
This year, 17 teams from the United States, Canada, France and Mexico have entered walking machines in the 10-event competition. Events include running a dash, crossing a crevasse, carrying heavy loads, locating and retrieving a billiard ball and returning it to the starting line, completing obstacle courses and climbing over a hill with an incline of 20 degrees. Teams score points based on how well their robots perform. The walking machines also are judged on esthetics, structural integrity, safety, start-up and testing.
The Colorado State team began construction of their six-legged walking machine, called HydrOX, or the hydraulic ox, last August. Members had to apply for the team and were selected by a committee. The students are responsible for the entire project, including fund-raising, design, production, assembly and testing.
This year’s team includes John Murphy and Jim Rotole, team captains; senior Anthony Puckett; junior Kerrie Thompson; sophomores Ben Mittlestadt, Matt Smith and Eric Lancaster; and freshman Anna McConica. Rotole estimates each team member has invested an average of 1,000 hours of work on the project.
"This year, we’ve designed a very robust, industrial robot," said Rotole. "We’re striving for a completely autonomous robot with an accurate navigational system and an optical system that allows the machine to see objects and obstacles."
"The future is full of real-world applications for walking machine technology," said Mick Peterson, assistant professor in the department of mechanical engineering. "The students designing robots for this competition may soon be designing machines with broader applications, including robots for planetary and undersea exploration, for work in radioactive and other harsh environments or for a variety of uses in the engineering industry."
Components and cash donations totaling more than $35,000 were donated to the Colorado State team by Anco Engineers, Burnham Products, Collins Electric and Control, Fastenal, Foundation Consulting Group, Hanifen Imhoff, Schlosser Casting, Servo Systems, Star Linear Systems, Storage Technology, Structural Research Analysis, Vickers Hydraulics and Woodward Governor.