COD Only Two-Year School Invited to UIUC Robotics Competition


By Mike McKissack

For the second consecutive year, College of DuPage was the only two-year school ever granted permission to participate in the annual Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

This year's challenge included 30 teams from prestigious schools such as UIUC, University of Illinois at Chicago, Valparaiso University, Northern Illinois University and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Click here for photos of the team and a video from the competition.

Members of the COD Engineering Club who participated in this year's event include team captain John Volmer, Electromechanical Engineering, Downers Grove; Filipe Belous, Mechanical Engineering, Roselle; James Blondin, Engineering, LaGrange Park; Kevin Haroldsen, Engineering and Computer Science, Aurora; Christopher Jones, Manufacturing Engineering Technology, Aurora; Robert Stevenson, Engineering, Lombard; Scott Walters, Engineering, Naperville; and Jonathan Ward, Manufacturing Engineering Technology, Darien.

According to Engineering instructor and club advisor Scott Banjavcic, the students learned a great deal about working with people that have different areas of expertise to achieve a common goal.

"The Engineering Club achieved fantastic results during this year's competition at UIUC,"  Banjavcic said. "The project team was a combination of engineers and technicians that collaborated to put together one of the most professional and solidly designed machines at the competition, placing twelfth in overall points out of thirty teams from a variety of prestigious four-year universities."

Weighing in at just one pound below the competition weight limit of 145 lbs., the robot includes a square base platform measuring 20 by 21 inches and a fully functional forklift. In addition, the robot features a drive train and steering capabilities that enable it to spin 360 degrees in place as well as reach speeds of up to 25 miles per hour.

The team members were pleased with their robot's performance at the competition, naming teamwork, practical experience and the cross-disciplinary nature of their efforts as the most notable aspects of the project.

"The best part of this competition was working as part of a team," said team captain Volmer. "It was particularly interesting and educational to have students from different backgrounds each adding their expertise."

According to Kevin Haroldsen, who worked as the electronics manager on the robot, there was a particular challenge surrounding the multidisciplinary aspect of the project.

"We had to overcome the rift between the ideologies and the vocabularies of those who design and those who build," Haroldsen said. "As the project developed, we engineers increasingly learned from the machinists and they increasingly learned from us."

The team effort involved in preparing for the competition was not limited to the students; it also included the efforts of faculty and staff.

"Physics Lab Manager Bob Carrington, Manufacturing Program Coordinator Jim Filipek, Associate Dean of Technology John Kronenburger and Associate Dean of Health and Sciences Tom Schrader were key in allowing this to happen in terms of acquiring materials and making available the facilities to build this robot," said HVACR instructor and project advisor Bob Clark. "Our success at the event is a testament to the programs and resources at COD. Many four-year universities don't have the resources to pull off this kind of interdepartmental build."

Clark added that despite the support of faculty and staff members, leadership for the project was primarily left to the initiative of the students.

"This project provided students with a practical view of engineering as well as helping them to develop a sense of leadership," Clark said. "It was entirely student run, with only guidance and support offered by the faculty."

Click here for more information about the AMD Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition. Click here for information about the College's Engineering and Manufacturing Technology programs.

Pictured: COD Engineering Club members who participated in this year's UIUC Robotics competition with advisors Scott Banjavcic (Engineering instructor, left) and Bob Clark (Manufacturing Technology instructor, second from right).