Lipscomb robotics team places 14th out of 42 schools in IEEE SoutheastCon 2017 Hardware Challenge

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A team of nine Lipscomb University engineering students recently placed 14th out of 42 teams in their debut showing at a national robotics competition held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, the world’s largest association of technical professionals, on March 31 through April 2 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  

2017Roboticsteam_Side1The team spent the last six months building an autonomous multi-sensor robot designed to navigate a specific course and carry out certain tasks.

John Hutson, faculty advisor for the IEEE chapter at Lipscomb and assistant professor in the engineering college, says that this was Lipscomb’s first year of competing in the robotics competition, and the team placed higher than Duke University; the University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Georgia Southern University; the University of Florida; and the University of Kentucky.

For years, Lipscomb’s Raymond B. Jones College of Engineering has provided opportunities for students to apply fundamental knowledge to real-life problems through annual collegiate engineering competitions, and has seen a great deal of success. In 2016, a team of Lipscomb mechanical engineering students placed 11th in the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Baja SAE collegiate design competition; and that same year, a group of Lipscomb civil engineering students placed 7th at the ASCE Concrete Canoe competition.

Greg Nordstrom, electric and computer professor and technical advisor to the robotics team, said when hiring future employees, top engineering firms often look for candidates who have various hands-on experiences, and these collegiate competitions are a great example of that.

“As faculty members, we want to give our students the best technical and hands-on experiences in and out of the classroom that will best prepare them for their future professions,” said Nordstrom. “We have heard it time and time again that top engineering firms look for these types of projects in future employees, and so we want our students to invest their time in them as well. Up until this year, we had great opportunities for our mechanical and civil engineers, but we are thrilled to also have our electrical engineering students engage and succeed in such a prestigious competition as well.”

Beginning in fall 2016, six senior engineering students including Derek Peterson, a senior mechanical engineering student; Kristina Johnson, a senior electrical engineering major; Nate Hamilton, a senior electrical engineering major; Will Knight, a senior electrical engineering major; Rashmeet Ladhar, a senior engineering major; Brandon Smith, a senior electrical engineering major; built the robot from the ground up as part of their senior design project.

Students Garrett Wood, a junior mechanical engineering major; Cailey Cline, a junior electrical engineering major; and Salah Salman, a sophomore electrical engineering major; in Lipscomb’s IEEE chapter, also competed in the competition and plan to lead next year’s team as well. 

2017Roboticsteam_Side2“I’m very proud of these seniors and the other students who have worked with them to create a robot that will benefit other students for years to come,” said Hutson. “We wanted this competition to be an opportunity to not only strengthen the IEEE chapter at Lipscomb - which is currently one of three largest IEEE student branches in the state - but to also give electrical and computer engineering students an opportunity to solve difficult problems in a new and exciting setting year-after-year. It is also exciting to see our upperclassman mentor underclassman as they continue to apply their engineering knowledge in a directly relatable way.”

During the 2017 Hardware Competition, the robot was required to distinctively navigate a course on its own, as well as engage the course through various tasks. Nordstrom said that Peterson worked closely with Hamilton to successfully put sensors on the robot to measure how far it was from the walls of the course and where it was on the floor. 

“This competition engages students in really hard, real-world problems,” said Nordstrom. “It teaches them teamwork, communication and unique specialization skills, and it’s really exciting for the students to see their work come to fruition,” said Nordstrom. “And on top of seeing that – this process gives them a real boost of confidence knowing they can tackle these issues and affirms them that they can take what they’ve learned in school and apply it to their future careers as engineers.”

This is only Lipscomb’s latest accomplishment in robotics engineering. Since 2010, Since 2010, Nissan North America has donated over $350,000 to fund Lipscomb’s summer BisonBot Robotic Camps and the annual Music City BEST (Boosting Engineering, Science and Technology) competition, to help interest Middle Tennessee students of all ages to learn important science, engineering technology and math (STEM) skills.

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