Student Team Wins Robotics Competition

Posted: July 25, 2003 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Robin Herron

A team of George Mason students in the School of Information Technology and Engineering won first place in a robotics competition at the 2003 International Council on Systems Engineering Annual Symposium held in Arlington earlier this month. Kathryn Laskey, Systems Engineering and Operations Research associate professor, recruited the team members and attended the meeting with them.

Systems engineering seniors Rudy Ayala and Kevin Han, and computer engineering senior Chad Nelson, coached by graduate student Marty Rothwell, beat out contenders from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the $2,500 prize. Other competitors came from Catholic University, Rutgers University, Oakton High School, and Virginia Tech.

Robotics Competition
Seniors (from left to right) Kevin Han, Rudy Ayala, and Chad Nelson work on their award-winning robot.

With only two weeks to prepare, the team met almost every night and on weekends to build and test a robot using a LEGO Mindstorms robot kit. In the competition, the robot was to be graded on cost, configuration management, and performance in a round robin tournament in which the objective was to disable the opposing team’s robot.

Nelson is president of George Mason’s Applied Robotics Club, and Ayala is the secretary and webmaster for the club. Han, who is not in the club but is thinking of joining, says, “I think the competition was a great opportunity to network with people and a good learning experience on group work. It was definitely a fun, exciting experience. Even 60-, 70- year-old CEOs were cheering and yelling, ‘Flip them! Push ’em out of the ring!’ It was just great.”

Rothwell, who teaches engineering systems at Chantilly Academy high school, says, “I felt coming in that we had a very strong design, so the key to winning would be how well prepared we could be. Kevin practiced very hard until he mastered the controls and could make the robot do whatever he wanted. Chad and Rudy studied the other teams and developed strategies based on the other robots’ strengths and weaknesses. Then they put it all together at the match.”

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