Midwestern Robotics Design Competition (MRDC) is a yearly robotics competition held at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign among different colleges and universities in the Midwest. MRDC is an objective-based and timed competition, and the rules vary each year. Compared to most robotics competitions, either land and aerial robots (drones) can be entered. Every last day of the event, teams has the option to join the Demolition Round where there is only one goal – Stay Alive; Destroy Robots. MRDC was EDT’s first and longest running competition since the organization’s inception, and also the competition where the organization gets the most of its awards and achievements.
EDT has set up a group driven project to compete in NASA’s Annual Lunar Robotics Mining competition. In this pursuit students will create a tangible result in where they can use their work and experience from this project to aid in their professional pursuits part of their portfolio. To further contribute to the STEM field, and bring prestige and exposure to the University.
The goal of this project, aside from the competition, is for students to differentiate themselves. When members are finished they can add this project to their resume/portfolio and point to direct and applicable areas where they contributed. The project goal is to allow students to explore and implement their knowledge in their areas of interest, to give members exposure, experience and proof of their capability to create tangible results.
EDT is excited to be competing in this project features applied robotics, the competition is fun and highly competitive. It is interdisciplinary and allows a wide range of people to apply their knowledge. UIC has multiple robot teams that compete. However, none that features mining, which is unfortunate because moving material is a core engineering problem. Other competitions which EDT has participated in the past don’t have this focus where a team can score higher for outreach, social media and a worldwide campaign. This focus is important because STEM projects are often insolated, these efforts would help bring STEM into the more into the public eye.
Over the years EDT has developed reliable systems for tele-operation of their bots. After dabbling with fully autonomous at JSDC, the team craved a competition with new and more complex challenges. Inspired by the Grand Challenge, we sought out a new higher profile competition.
IGVC is an advanced autonomous robotics competition, targeted toward masters and PhD level students. At EDT we manage with an entirely undergraduate team, seeking only minor support from alumni.
The competition itself takes place outside, rain or shine. EDT travels to the University of Oakland, in Rochester Michigan, where they compete in an open field. There are three parts: Navigation, JAUS, and Engineering Design.
The Navigation part involves qualifying, which makes sure the core systems (line detection and object avoidance) are functioning. The real course involves the robot to navigate a course without going outside the white lines (which may be dashed or broken at times), avoid obstacles such as traffic obstructions(cones, bins, etc.) and other navigational difficulties such a sand trap or a dynamic course.
The design includes presenting the robot to a panel of judges who come from the field. EDT strives to be a design team, and not just an assembly or systems integration team (although system integration is important and a part of design). This competition really forces you to apply proper design philosophies in order to produce a working machine that can compete successfully.
At EDT, we are always excited to explore different types of robots. With Robot Art competition in mind, we are building a Semi-humanoid Painter Robot. The robot is meant to mimic human body movements with an intent to create artworks using paintbrush and canvas. The team consists undergraduate and graduate students that are enrolled at UIC. The process of building this robot is overall flexible and this gives us the opportunity to incorporate different types of mechanisms to achieve our goal.