BUILDING A BETTER BOT
One by one, students sorted the tiny, tangled wires of purple, white, yellow and black. And one by one, students painstakingly attached those tiny, tangled wires to even smaller connections — A1 to N2, A2 to N3.
They huddled around a square board of connections and capacitors, making the complex look easy as piece by piece they attached and tightened parts that would soon become the power behind a warehouse robot.
The members of the robotics team of the East Carolina University chapter of the Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) are building the robot to compete at the ATMAE national conference Nov. 6-8 in Charlotte.
It’s a project that involves all aspects of the College of Engineering and Technology.
“Electronics, programming, design, engineering, networking — it involves the entire department, and that is generally the whole scope of ATMAE, too,” said senior Sean Wear, ATMAE vice president and co-lead for the robotics team. “A project like this having everybody involved in it with the different specialties is what happens in the real world. This is a real-world example of a project that somebody would be a part of.”
The group started in the spring, creating teams to tackle specific tasks, from designing and programming the robot to creating parts, drilling holes for connections and then putting the pieces together.
“We’re running it like a real world business project,” said junior Logan Kelley, ATMAE president and co-lead of the team. “We have lead personnel, we have section leads, and each team reports to their lead and those leads relay that information to us.”
As part of the competition, teams earn points as the robot completes specific tasks that involve the movement of various objects with various weights.
“It’s essentially a warehouse robot that will take items from a loading dock and move them to storage shelves while avoiding obstacles and things within the warehouse,” Wear said.
The robot isn’t big. It essentially must fit within an 18-inch cube while still having the ability to lift a pound in weight. More than 20 students have been involved in its creation.
“We have to make sure everyone is on the same page,” Kelley said. “We have some young people, and for a lot of them, this is their first real-work experience working together with different teams. It’s been a big learning experience for a lot of them, how to work as a team and how to adapt to the situation changing constantly. Things change quickly and they are learning to adapt and fix those quickly. As soon as it changes, they are on it like that, and then we move forward with it.”
Beyond the robot competition, the conference will feature various presentations, plant tours and networking.
“It is a professional development conference,” Wear said. “It’s mostly for industry professionals for their professional development and looking at what is new that is going on in the industry. Industry in this case is a broad term because it is anything associated with technology, management and applied engineering so there is a whole lot going on. It’s pretty much anything involved with project management on the engineering side, manufacturing and product development.”
Regardless of where they finish in the competition, Kelley and Wear both hope the construction of the robot as well as attendance at the conference will help grow the ATMAE chapter at ECU.
“A lot of what we’re doing is building up the face of the robotics team and getting it more accessible,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be a continuing thing, making sure it’s accessible to new students after we’ve graduated and making sure the program is still around and going to the competitions and seeing it grow from there.”
Wear believes that’s happening with the younger team members.
“We have a few that have really stepped up well this semester and that we’re going to transition to more of a leadership role next semester and next year to allow them to continue to flourish,” Wear said.
Kelley admits that he is no robotics expert but said he has enjoyed learning from and working with the other students.
“I’m proud of the team. It’s been awesome,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of people grow. It’s definitely been a positive experience for me.”
For those interested in seeing the robot in action, a demonstration is planned from 2-4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4, in the atrium of the Science and Technology Building.