Hard work drives robot show at U

The exhibit was a culmination of a semester’s worth of work for students.

Erin Adler

Robots normally make life easier, but they did just the opposite for a group of students in the Introduction to Engineering course (ME 2011).

About 225 students, mostly from the Institute of Technology, displayed their final projects Monday afternoon at McNamara Alumni Center.

The Shaqbot, a shot-firing, ball-recovering robot with light emitting diodes for eyes, took engineering sophomore Chris Engelmann about 50 hours to complete, but being done with the “big finale” felt good, he said.

“I kind of hated the project all the way through, but once you get it done, you’re pretty proud of it,” he said. “It makes it worth it.”

The projects highlighted students’ ability to design, construct, test and demonstrate their robotic creations to the public, said professor Will Durfee, director of design education.

The show, which is open to the public, gives students a chance to talk about their work, he said.

“It’s a chance for the Institute of Technology and the University to show the community the innovative students we have here,” Durfee said.

The robots themselves ” many assembled with hot glue, solder, duct tape and powered by 9-volt batteries ” gave only a glimpse into the depth of the project. Each student also showcased the design steps, including schematic drawings, circuit maps and computer codes.

The project is one of the few in the department that requires students to work alone instead of in a group.

Engineering sophomore Joseph DeVeau built a model of a human hand, which manipulated fingers in sequence based on computer code. He combined his engineering know-how with handiwork he learned as a bicycle repairman to create tendons from brake lines and muscles from rubber bands.

He even threw in some elbow grease to keep his costs ” limited to $30 ” low when he purchased the electric motors.

“They were moving the store, so I helped for a couple hours and they gave me a nice discount,” he said.

Architecture senior Angela Miller took the course because it offered a more hands-on approach, she said. She built a hands-free hammer, which was much louder than mechanical engineering senior Jessie Hakes’ hands-free handcart.

Industry experts accounted for many of the 187 judges at the show.

Jim Fairman, president of Bloomington-based Pando Technologies, said the students’ creativity was impressive.

“After you’ve been in business for a while, you start to think things are not possible,” he said. “Students have no such fear, everything’s possible to them and you see that here.”