COD Students Place in Top Four at 30th Annual UIUC Robotics Competition

Robotics Icon

By Mike McKissack

For the fifth consecutive year, the College of DuPage Engineering Club was the only team from a two-year school to compete in the Midwestern Robotics Design Competition.

The Midwestern Robotics Design Competition is an annual robotics competition held at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where student teams from across the Midwest design and build competitive robots. Each year, a new game objective is created that tests the teams in terms of creative design and robot functionality and fosters new designs and innovation. The goal of the competition is to promote engineering disciplines and provide students a chance to demonstrate their technical abilities and creativity while applying knowledge learned in engineering courses.

This year’s team included Matthaios Aravosis (Glen Ellyn), Herven Barham (Aurora), Olivia Barron (Bolingbrook), Robert Beckwith (Wheaton), Brant Bedore (Naperville), John Deuschle, (Lemont), Kristopher Gardner (Glendale Heights), Adam Gernes (Naperville), Peter Gutfeldt (Warrenville), Alexis Miranda (Bloomingdale), Tiffany Montgomery (Lisle), Jaime Ontiveros (Gurnee), Joseph Petsinger (Bloomingdale), Prerak Sanghvi (Naperville), Josie Suter (Naperville), Zuriel Tronco (Glendale Heights), Remzo Vega (Itasca), and Scott Walters (Naperville).

Suter said that while it was intimidating being the only community college represented at the competition, she was pleased with the results.

“We were surrounded by four-year schools who had a lot of experience and funding for robotics,” she said. “As a team of freshmen and sophomores, and many of us with no experience in robotics before this competition, it was so much more rewarding to make it to finals and place in the top four.”

This year’s team entered three robots to compete against 27 teams from prestigious universities. The Roadrunner, a 120-pound robot featuring a two-foot by two-and-a-half-foot chassis, placed in the top 20 during the demolition round of the competition. The 100-pound, three-foot by three-foot chassis Meme Machine was used during the competition in an event wherein the competitors were required to maneuver the robots through tunnels, primarily sight unseen. The Meme Machine placed 12th in the preliminary rounds and made it to the semifinals.

Scoot weighed in at 65 pounds, featured a two-foot by two-foot chassis, four chain-driven DC motors controlling six-inch Mecanum wheels, as well as a claw apparatus designed to collect balls during one of the competition events. Scoot placed ninth out of 30 teams in the preliminary rounds and went on to take fourth place overall in the final round.

In 2015, the COD Engineering team was awarded Best Design at the UIUC-sponsored competition and one of only two community colleges invited to participate in the 2015 and 2016 NASA Robotic Mining Competitions held at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Enrolled in the Engineering Pathways program at COD, Suter said the team improvised solutions during the competition, driving home the importance of teamwork and flexibility.

“At almost every moment, the entire team was engaged in trying to improve the robots, and there were several times where we had to switch plans quickly,” she said. “For example, our team member Joe Petsinger spent about 200 hours designing a claw assembly but late into the competition, it became apparent that we weren’t going to finish building it in time. In order to survive the next round, we had to dismiss that design and go with something much simpler. If we hadn’t switched gears and focused on what would make us successful, we might have been eliminated earlier. Instead, we brainstormed other ways to allow our robot to score and immediately implemented what was practical.”

Suter said that her experiences at the competition and in the Engineering Club are one of many great opportunities she has received as a College of DuPage student.

“COD allowed me to do so much more than I could’ve done at a university,” she said. “I started my first job here, received a scholarship through the COD Foundation, acquired a great internship that was offered to COD students only, gained leadership experience through different clubs as a freshman, and met some amazing professors who not only taught me but guided me toward success outside the classroom.”

Planning to major in mechanical engineering at UIUC after graduating from COD in May 2018, Suter said COD has also enabled her to explore opportunities without breaking the bank.

“When I chose to pursue engineering, I wasn’t 100 percent sure that it was what I wanted to do. Enrolling in the Engineering Pathways program allows me to graduate with an outstanding engineering degree and still have the ability to test the waters for two years without going into debt. If I had decided that engineering wasn’t for me, it would’ve only cost me a few thousand dollars versus tens of thousands of dollars. Whether you spend $60,000 for your first two years at a university or $10,000 for your first two years at COD before transferring, the degree you get from that university holds the same value.”

Click here for more information about the Engineering program at College of DuPage.

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