COD Engineering Club Competes in Prestigious UIUC Robotics Competition

By Robyn Johnson

Weighing in at 125 pounds of taught steel and complex components, the robot created by the College of DuPage Engineering Club was the first ever from COD to participate in the 26th Annual Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition at University of Illinois-Urbana/Champaign.

In fact, College of DuPage, via the eight-member COD Engineering Club (“Team Vulcan”), is the only two-year school ever granted permission to fight for the title in this premium robotic contest. Other schools entered in this year's competition included UIUC, University of Illinois at Chicago, Valparaiso University, Northern Illinois University and the Illinois Institute of Technology. Click here for photos at the UIUC competition.

“This was an entirely student-driven project funded by a grant approved by Executive Vice President Joe Collins, who is himself an electrical engineer,” said Physics Professor Tom Carter. “Team Captain Ted Stelling took the initiative to track down the person in charge of the competition to side-step the established rules and allow COD to enter. It was a great effort all around.”

In addition to Stelling, a Computer Science major from Downers Grove, Team Vulcan members included: Alyssa Bowes, Physics, Glen Ellyn; Zachary Dawes, Bioengineering, Downers Grove; Carl Kerschner, Mechanical Engineering, Wheaton; Martin Matousek, Engineering, La Grange Park; Daniel Rischl, Electrical Engineering, Wheaton; Ryan Sanders, Chemical Engineering, Glen Ellyn; and Enrique Zubieta, Mechanical Engineering, Glendale Heights. Click here for more photos of team members.

The Team Vulcan robot is a square platform with a diameter of roughly 2 feet, 6 inches. The 125-pound machine is powered by three 24-volt batteries and moves at speeds of about 13 mph. The most difficult piece of the robot to map out and construct was a forklift with high-friction pads on a gripper claw, said team member Carl Kerschner.

The claw was a vital element of the robot, he said, since the competition involved picking up colored cones and placing them on scoring rods to gain a continuous line of powered ‘territories’ starting from the College’s home corner.

“We were under a real time crunch for this project, with less than two months to take the idea from concept to design to build,” noted  Stelling. “We were listed as a competitor among some of the highest-rated engineering schools in the country – and we were able to compete. So, ultimately we met our goal.”

The final part of the two-day competition, sponsored by Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), included a demolition derby. According to Kerschner, Team Vulcan’s robot performed smashingly well through this part of the contest.

“We built this thing strong,” Kerschner said. “It has a solid chasse and tires that can grip any type of ramp, so it climbed easily over other the other robots. At the same time, the overpowered drive train pushed the other robots around effortlessly. It was really fun to watch.”

The strength of the robot’s base will serve the team well for next year’s competition, whatever the parameters of the contest may entail.

“They change the requirements each year, which is what makes this such an exciting competition,” said Physics Lab Manager Bob Carrington. “This type of hands-on exercise really draws students into the sciences – there’s nothing better than having a set of ideas on paper and then bringing those concepts to life.”

Click here for more information about the AMD Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition. Click here for information about the College’s Engineering program.

Photograph (first row, left to right): Martin Matousek, Carl Kerschner; (second row, left to right): Ryan Sanders, Enrique Zubieta, Daniel Rischl, Alyssa Bowes, Zachary Dawes, Ted Stelling, Physics Lab Manager Bob Carrington.