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NU students’ robots compete for glory

Twelve autonomous robots will go head-to-head tomorrow as their student designers vie for a $3,000 first prize in an engineering design competition at Northwestern University.


Twelve autonomous robots will go head-to-head tomorrow as their student designers vie for a $3,000 first prize in an engineering design competition at Northwestern University.

It’s the 18th annual edition of the free event that attracts hundreds of spectators every year who enjoy the display of high technology and student ingenuity.

This year’s competition, called “NUball,” will start at noon at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center, 2133 Sheridan Road in Evanston.

Teams of Northwestern undergraduates representing a variety of engineering fields have spent six months designing, building and programming autonomous robots using 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 each robot will compete against two other robots in a hexagon-shaped arena. Each robot will have a designated area and color, and teams will strive to get balls of their own color out of the hexagon arena (worth three points) while preventing balls from remaining in their designated area.

Five points are subtracted for each ball of any color that remains in their area. Robots will use arms, scoops and vacuums in their battle of the balls. After a two-minute bout, the team with the most points will advance.

The event is expected to conclude around 3 p.m. with an awards ceremony. Cash prizes will be awarded to the top three teams: $3,000 for first place, $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third.

One team also will be honored with the design competition’s annual Myke Minbiole Elegant Engineering Award. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science 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.

More information on the competition is available online and a video of last year’s competition is also available.

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