Here’s the challenge: Build a robotic mouse that can quickly find its own way out of a never-before-seen maze. A trio of Temple University engineering students has won an award for designing such a robot.
“What the robot does, is it has a few sensors on it that allow it to autonomously navigate a maze, and then map that maze to solve it in the fastest time possible,” said junior James Novino, a member of the team that competed last weekend at this year’s Robotics Olympiad at Brown University.
Along with fellow electrical engineering student Abby Sydnes, Norvino focused on the coding and algorithm design. Junior Jake Holohan took the lead on the mechanical side.
“Based on how the algorithm is written, and based on the shortest distance as it maps the maze, it will determine which direction [the robot] should go,” explained Sydnes, who is a sophomore.
While the robot didn’t win the timed race, Novino said that 3D printing allowed them to quickly test prototypes, and the team’s presentation of their process won them the excellence in design award.
“We went through the iterations of our design, showed that we used 3D modeling software, showed some of the calculations and some of the different algorithms we had started working on and then ruled them out,” he said.
The students’ advisor, John Helferty, is proud of the success.
“You’re going up against Ivy-league schools and to win a design competition, I thought was phenomenal,” he said. “They put in the hours, they put in the time, and this was the ultimate payoff for it.”
Next year, the same group will compete again, and they aim to bring back more awards.