Colorado State University Students Design Robot that Can Â??act on Its Own’ for International Walking Machine Competition

Robots designed by Colorado State University students will march into Mexico City to compete in the 2003 Walking Machine Challenge at La Salle University March 31-April 3. Seventeen teams will participate in this year’s international competition.

MIKE II will be one of the first robots to compete in portions of the challenge without a student directly controlling the machine.

"Simply speaking, MIKE II has a vision system that detects and observes its environment. Based on what the vision system sees, the programmable logic controller turns valves on and off to make the robot move," said Peter Brookens, a senior mechanical engineering major and member of Team MIKE II.

The MIKE II can be remotely controlled by a human operator but also has the capability to act on its own. The robot uses a video camera and pattern recognition software to see its environment and send visual feedback to a programmable logic controller that controls the legs and keeps the robot on course.

All robots must have a self-contained power source that is safe for indoor use, which means no internal combustion engines or extension cords running to electrical outlets. Colorado State’s Team MIKE II robot uses compressed air to move its legs and batteries to power an on-board computer system.

The competition challenges engineering students to put their working knowledge to creative uses. The machines must be versatile enough to carry heavy loads, run the dash, maneuver through a slalom course, step over trip wires and complete an endurance test. Teams also score points based on their machine’s safety, structural integrity and esthetic appeal. In addition, each team must submit a technical paper and make a presentation about their robot.

In the future, walking machines may be used anywhere that maneuverability or the ability to cross rugged terrain is important. Some of the possible applications include space exploration, nuclear power plant maintenance and assisting disabled people with limited mobility.

The Walking Machine Challenge was first held at Colorado State during the 1986-87 academic year, and Colorado State entries have placed in the top three positions 12 times and taken first prize in eight contests. Participation in the challenge is part of a senior design requirement for mechanical and electrical and computer engineering students.

The Society of Automotive Engineers sponsors the annual event. For more information including a schedule of events, team rules and a list of competing universities, visit the Web at