Students win first in robotics contest
The red, white, green, and vaguely cubic robot won the MICS Robotics Competition held at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. MSU Students Hayk Margaryen, Ziad Kadry, Kenneth Kulling, Caitlyn Bachmeier, Alex Harrl, and Robert Simpson along with advisers Darren Seifert and Scott Kast built the robot responsible for winning.
The team started to prepare in January by brainstorming the best way to create their golfing robot. Their robot, and all 114 entered in the competition, wasn't just supposed to golf, it also had to be autonomous, or move by itself without outside help such as a remote control. Shooter ran on Raspberry Pi, a small computer about the size of a cellphone. This computer allowed the team to program Shooter McGavin to move, analyze its surroundings with a camera, hit the golf ball, and ultimately win.
Winning, though, didn't come easy. Seifert remarked that the building of Shooter "took a whole classroom, with pieces of wood and plastic from the cutting and shaping of its parts all over."
Harrl said not all the initial designs made the final product. The curtains from the sides of the robot were removed, exposing how ugly it was.
The team also had help from retired professor Larry Atwood. Atwood helped with building vital wooden pieces for the robot and supplied tools.
Margaryen, who used Shooter as his capstone project and was a major contributor to the code, kept the team focused on the larger goal.
"We're not participating, we're going to win," he told the team.
The team had to do some last-minute recalibrating on location, as the carpet used for practice, which a Walmart employee had assured the team would work, was much softer than the golf course green at the competition.
"One of the challengers was to map the picture coordinates into real world locations," Margaryen explained.
The team's ingenuity ultimately allowed them to win, as Shooter was equipped with a small camera that analyzed the course in real time, looking at the obstacles, the golf ball, and the hole. To navigate the course, most of the other robots calibrated the course from a small map, then multiplied by eight, allowing the robot to travel the full-size course around charted obstacles. Shooter was at an advantage because mapping in real-time jallowed it to compensate for obstacles not shown on the map.
Kulling, an MSU graduate, attributes his success in finding his dream job to the competition.
"It was a fantastic experience. The comradery that was established during the whole brainstorming, and putting what we brainstormed into an actual robot was quite an experience," he said.