In the back row, from left, are Steven “Pokey” Prewitt, Jonathan Mosley, Andy Langford, Chad Stowell, Richard Morgan and Dr. John Wyatt; in the front row, from left, are Mickey Giordano, Brad Jones, Adam Brown, Cory Greenough and Trenton Cockrell. The Mississippi State Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering team won first place overall at the ATMAE competition last month in Louisville, Ky. It was the second year in a row the MSU team took home the top honor. Photo by: Courtesy
December 1, 2009 11:30:00 AM
When a team of Mississippi State University industrial technology students built a robot in 2008 and entered it in a competition against colleges and universities from around the U.S., not many people expected the Bulldogs to win.
But the group won first place overall at the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering competition, which surprised even some team members.
This year, the team had a target on its back, but once again the nine-member contingent brought home the first place overall award from the ATMAE competition, which took place the weekend of Nov. 12-13 in Louisville, Ky. The team also won first place in the head-to-head competition against other schools'' robots.
Each school''s entry was graded in the categories of performance, construction and presentation, said Mickey Giordano, one of the team''s three faculty advisers. The robots had to pick up racquetballs and bocce balls in a 24-foot-by-24-foot ring during the head-to-head competition and place them in designated areas to earn points.
Mississippi State''s robot was shaped like a doghouse. It had a PVC pipe "snout" that came out of the front and a paw that came out the side.
The snout served as a vacuum, which was used to pick up racquetballs, while the paw was supposed to retrieve the heavier bocce balls. But the motor on the paw died in practice, and the team had to rely solely on the snout and racquetball pickup.
Despite the technical difficulties, the team had an unexpected advantage over its competition: the robot''s weight. Although the body is made of fiberglass, a heavy steel frame holds the robot together. Throw in heavy motors, batteries and other parts, and the robot weighed more than 100 pounds.
One of the rules of the competition allowed a team''s robot to push the opposing team''s robot out of the competition ring while each was attempting to retrieve the racquet and bocce balls. Teams lost points when pushed out of the ring.
During one head-to-head competition, a robot from an opposing team had a power button on its front panel. When the robots collided, the power switch got stuck in the off position and MSU was able to push the opposing robot out of the ring and win easily.
In another match, a team from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale had a miniature forklift on its robot and attempted to flip Mississippi State''s robot over, but the MSU entry was too heavy, and SIU-Carbondale''s robot burned out its motor. The MSU team then won handily.
The SIU-Carbondale robot cost an estimated $7,000 to construct while the Mississippi State robot only cost about $1,300, Giordano said. That fact thrilled Starkville High School graduate and MSU team member Chad Stowell.
"It was a lot of fun," Stowell said. "We went up against a $7,000 robot and we beat them."
The team received a $1,000 prize to help with the construction of next year''s robot, a $300 robotic training kit, a trophy and some high-end computer design software. Additionally, the victory enables two industrial technology majors to spend a week in Dayton, Ohio, for specialized robotics and automation training at Rixan Associates Inc.
Giordano also was thrilled with the victory.
"Last year, we were hoping to do well and we won," Giordano said. "This year, we had the pressure of trying to repeat, but our students did a great job and again were victorious."
Team member Andy Langford, also a Starkville High School graduate, liked seeing and interacting with teams from colleges and universities throughout the county.
"There was a lot of diversity," Langford said. "It was neat to see different people and where they''re from and what they had in mind and what they thought was going to work."
The sophomore said he plans to participate in the competition again next year when it takes place in Daytona Beach, Fla. Team president Jonathan Mosley, of Vernon, Ala., will be a graduate student next fall, but also plans to participate.
"We''re waiting now to get all the specs, then we''ll get to work," Mosley said.
The team began work on their winning robot this year in March, Giordano said, though a lot of the work took place in the last two or three months.
Along with Stowell, Langford and Mosley, the team also included senior Bradley Jones, of Kosciusko; junior Adam Brown, of Lake; senior Trenton Cockrell, of Louisville; senior Cory Greenough, of Moss Point; senior Steven "Pokey" Prewitt, of Winona; and senior Richard Morgan, of Yazoo City.
Associate professor John E. Wyatt of Starkville and Southampton, England and instructor Jerry Mize of West Point were the other advisers accompanying the team to Louisville.
"It''s a great honor," Mize said.
david commented at 12/1/2009 2:56:00 PM:
good for them. as a software developer, i proudly proclaim that technology rocks, and it's great reading stories about the kids who are bringing the latest innovations to the marketplace.
Steve Diffey commented at 12/3/2009 2:46:00 PM:
Morgan, Prewitt and Jones all attended Holmes Community College in Goodman and have represented the Engineering Tech program here very well.
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