Ten autonomous robots will go head-to-head Saturday as their student designers vie for a $1,000 cash first prize at the 21st Annual Undergraduate Design Competition at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University.

Free and open to the public, the colorful event attracts hundreds of spectators every year who enjoy the competition, student ingenuity and technology as well as food and music.

This year’s event, “End of the World,” will start at noon at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center at 2133 Sheridan Road in Evanston.

Teams of Northwestern undergraduates from a variety of engineering fields have spent six months designing, building and programming their robots to operate autonomously. Often teams are cross-departmental, and students of all years work together, learning from one another.

Robots are made up of various parts, including microprocessors, actuators, motors, gears and electronic sensors. Remote control is not permitted, though teams may reprogram robots as often as desired.
This year two robots at a time will compete in a large rectangular arena. Each one is assigned a color and tries to gather foam cubes and return them to a moving goal to score points. Robots score points in three ways: by depositing cubes on its opponent’s side of the arena, by depositing cubes in its own goal and by depositing cubes on an elevated platform behind its own goal.

The event is expected to conclude around 3 p.m. with an awards ceremony. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three teams.

One team also will be honored with the design competition’s annual Myke Minbiole Elegant Engineering Award. McCormick alumnus Minbiole, who had been working as an engineer at Northrop Grumman, was killed in a hit-and-run collision in April 2007. Engineers from Northrop Grumman who worked with him will choose this year’s award winner.

Top: The agony of defeat at last year’s competition.

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  1. Dealing with real problems

    I'm glad NU science [or any other science group] is getting publicity.  These are hopefully the leaders of the next decades to solve some of the real problems we face and not areas where MA/PhDs conduct research on Shakespeare's Freudian complex and its meaning for modern man.

    More funding of science and less on grotesque sculptures and supposed "art" works that even children would know are junk.  When you see people spending $120,000,000 for a painting, you know we have lost our way..

    Also, a much better read and result than how the Council is trying to empty the pocketbooks of taxpayers.

  2. NU display of alternative fuels and cars

    Through Aug. 17 at Northwestern's Main Library, there is a display of parts from and pictures of the school's solar-powered car,  videos on chemistry of alternative energy, books on electric and other forms of alternative cars, and other displays.

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