Before leaving, the team disassembled the robot and each packed part of it into their luggage to avoid the costly shipping charges. For a team that is concerned about expenses, the prize money is a big incentive.
“Building a robot from scratch is a pretty expensive venture. So if we can win some money at the competition, then we can concentrate more on the engineering and the project itself,” said Billy Edwards, Mars Rover team leader and junior in mechanical engineering. The money would go towards scholarships, projects, and supplies for the lab.
During the challenge, the robot must work on its own to find a specific object in a park and return it to a designated point. The autonomous robot is guided by a computer program, and the team members are not allowed to control it during the task. The idea is to simulate conditions on Mars where GPS is not available, so the robot navigates by using cameras and other sensors.
“It’s really cool,” Edwards said. “It’s almost like seeing AI — to see something work on its own.”
The competition has two challenges. For the first challenge there is only one object to retrieve. Those robots that are successful compete in the second phase which has multiple objects. The week-long event also includes demonstrating the robot to the public.
Joining Edwards on the trip is Corwin Perren, electrical team lead, Lane Breneman, software team lead, Richard Cook, software senior design team member, and Erich Merrill, software senior design team member, all from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
Beyond the prize money the team is excited about representing Oregon State.
“We want to show that OSU has successful teams and very good engineers. We want to show what we can do,” Edwards said.
The inaugural hardware weekend (HWeekend) at Oregon State gave 19 engineering students a taste of creating a prototype under time pressure. Six teams developed their ideas as far as they could in 30 hours, starting in the morning of May 31 and finishing June 1. Hosted by the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science the free event was sponsored by Eaton Corporation that provided hardware and food. Mentors from Eaton Corporation and Hewlett-Packard were on hand to help guide the projects.
“There are start-up weekends and app development weekends, but there wasn’t a program for something that covered the whole gamut of engineering, and included user experience. And I thought, ‘We can do that,’” said Don Heer, organizer of the event and instructor for the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.
The theme for the weekend event was automation and non-obtrusive technology. Projects were as diverse as a moving trash can, and a cane for people who are visually impaired that would vibrate the handle when nearby objects were detected.
The teams formed after having a chance to interact with each other one on one. Students with ideas for a project wrote them up on a white board and other students shopped around for a group. Cross-disciplinary groups formed with students from electrical and computer engineering, mechanical and industrial engineering, computer science and chemical and biological engineering.
Cory Rea, a power systems engineer for Eaton Corporation who served as a mentor, said the weekend was a great way for students to get some real-world experience.
“Every day in my job I work with a team across multiple disciplines — mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, sales, project managers. So, it’s important to be able to collaborate effectively,” he said.
Hannah Marvin, a freshman in electrical in computer engineering, said she came because she wanted to make connections with students outside her major. Marvin was a winner of one of the “Ironman Awards” given to 17 students who stuck it out the whole 30 hours.
“It went a lot faster than I perceived it would. It’s really cool looking at everybody else’s projects, so that makes it go by faster,” she said. And even after several hours with no sleep, she was still positive.
“It’s really fun! Everyone should have a chance to do this,” she said.
It was a collaborative atmosphere where students helped out other teams when they could. One team stood out to win the “Helper Award.” Elliott Highfill, Travis Hodgin, Austin Hodgin, Max Schmidt, and Bradly Thissen worked on a project to play a game of tag with the TekBot robots, but were also a great help to the other teams by loaning tools, offering ideas, and help with coding.
The top award for execution went to a team that built a device to augment the function of a human arm as an aid for people with limited strength or other disabilities. Kyle Cesare, John Fritter, Ryan Skeele and Soo-Hyun Yoo intend to continue to work on the project which they hope to eventually be an exoskeleton suit including both arms and legs that can be easily reproduced by others without highly specialized equipment.
Heer hopes that events like these will show people how cool engineering is. “Engineers should be rock stars…they are the ones that make the world run,” he said.
The whirring sound of bike tires spinning on stationary stand could be heard throughout the Kelley Engineering Center as one after another Engineering Expo visitors tested out the Intellicycle. Based on the number of people flocking to get on the bike it was not surprising the senior design project won the People’s Choice Award. But it was more than senior Arron Bellini had anticipated.
“I wasn’t expecting more than passing glances, but then the interest in it blew up. It was pretty crazy,” Bellini said.
The Intellicycle is a device that can be added to any bike to measure speed, distance, cadence and temperature. The information is sent to a smartphone where it is displayed on a mobile application which can also bring up a map of your location. There are no worries about the phone running out of battery life, because the system harvests energy from the front wheel. In addition to recharging a phone, the power system runs the lights on the bike. But they are not just ordinary lights — these “smart” lights automatically turn on when it gets dark, and can also be controlled manually.
Brian Benavidez said he thought their project did well at Expo because it was very hands-on, it was easy for people to understand and useful to many types of bike riders. Having a bike situated in the atrium of Kelley was an amazing hook to get people interested. “We had a five-year-old riding it and an 82-year-old riding it, and they both had huge smiles on their faces,” he said.
Beyond seeing how fast they could get the bike to go, the visitors also had questions.
“We had genuine questions from people who are not engineers wanting to know how it works. It was cool that we could take some complicated engineering and convert it into something that a 5-year-old kid wants to know about. It turned the competition into education,” Kamil Agrawala said.
The project, which was first hatched by the friends at a football game, split nicely into three parts they each had independent control over: the power system, the sensors, and the mobile application. The hard part, they all admitted, was getting the three separate parts to work together. And although they sometimes butted heads on how to get it to work, they left business behind them when they would hang out together as friends.
“The one thing I would tell other students doing their senior project, is pick a team that you have a good group chemistry with, because you’ll be working with these people for a year,” Agrawala said.
The many hours of work paid off in a project that captured the imaginations of those who visited, some who wondered if the group would turn it into a marketable product. For now, the success of finishing is enough.
“To come up with a plan and execute it the way we wanted to, and then to cap off with the award was a pretty monumental achievement. Right now I’m just feeling sincere gratification,” Bellini said.
Oregon State students Chris Vanderschuere, Carly Farr, and Bret Lorimore teamed up to create an app for the Corvallis Transit System to help bus riders track when their bus will arrive. Now available on iTunes, the app won the presentation award at OSU’s App Challenge on May 10. It was featured in The Daily Barometer and KEZI.
After participating in the App Hackathon last year, Nicole Phelps knew she wanted to bring the experience of creating an app to more students. Renamed OSU’s App Challenge, she David Meehan organized the event this year that culminated in a competition on May 10. It was the capstone senior project for the two computer science students.
Phelps and Meehan taught weekly classes in Android and iOS development to prepare students for the competition. But expanding students’ skills was not the only point to the competition.
“The event currently has some amazing judges, which provides students with an uncommon opportunity to network with inspiring role models in the tech industry,” Phelps said. The judges this year were Scott Kveton, CEO and co-founder of Urban Airship, and co-founder of OSU’s Open Source Lab; Bryce Clemmer, CEO and co-founder of Vadio; Luke Kanies, CEO and co-founder of Puppet Labs; and Shashi Jain, CTO and co-founder of MatterCompilers and Corporate Innovations Lead at UP Global.
“Another thing we wanted to do with the classes was build a community of app developers,” said Meehan. “It’s great to have other people to talk to who are working on the same kinds of problems you are.”
Encouraging teamwork was the focus of this year’s event which Phelps said is an important skill for future jobs, but also makes the experience more fun and less pressure.
Luke Kanies, of Puppet Labs, said he could see a significant improvement in the quality of the apps this year and was impressed with partnerships that the students had with industry and research labs. “The organization has learned a lot over the year,” he said.
Several app developers had real clients: Three of the apps were built for the Corvallis Transportation System to help bus riders navigate the bus system, Francis Vo and Meghan Gorman competed with an app sponsored by Intel that displays a game from multiple phones on one TV screen, and the overall winning team, OccuChrome, developed an app for an Oregon State chemistry lab to read enzyme slides using a smartphone camera, and analyze the chemical reaction.
Others brought apps that they developed for their own use. Greg Luis-Ramirez competed with a quiz app that he uses as a study tool, and Michael Woffendin and Nick Piatt created an app that uses ratings that friends give restaurants to find one that everyone will agree on. “I have very indecisive friends,” Piatt said with a smile.
Thanks to a generous donation by Urban Airship, and swag by Google, the participants also received some great prizes. The overall winner received a $200 Amazon gift certificate and all other winners received $75 Amazon gift certificates.
OccuChrome by Kyle Cesare, Joe Runde, and Kevin Hess
OccuChrome automates the process of calibrating statistical models to evaluate reactions on enzyme slides. This will speed up research processes in a lab setting, and may have further uses in the field as a mobile diagnostic platform for doctors.
Usability: CorBus by Cezary Wojcik and Russel Barnes
Corbus is an app that is meant to assist users of the Corvallis Transportation System. The goal of the app is to provide a quick and beautiful interface that can help users easily plan and navigate the buses of Corvallis.
Presentation: Transport by Chris Vanderschuere, Carly Farr, and Bret Lorimore
Transport app for the Corvallis Transit System, which serves to provide bus riders with real-time information about where the bus is and when it will get to your stop.
Completeness: LANREG by Charles Catino
LANREG is an event registration web application that is designed to support small to large scale LAN parties. It includes organization, event, and seating chart creation tools along with full PayPal payment integration.
People’s Choice: Profit by Soroush Ghorashi and Chadwick Swenson
Profit is a simple mobile app that solves the three biggest problems freelancers and small business owners face: taxes, audit preparation and client tracking.