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First-Year Students Round Up Zombies, Mummies & Vampires in 'Monster Mash'

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Electrical and computer engineering students built and programmed robots that collected a variety of ghoulish figurines in a Monster Mash Challenge that culminated this fall’s introductory Engineering Practice course.

Within the first nine weeks of college a group of electrical and computer engineering students programmed Arduino-based hardware and software, used gyroscope and light sensors, and learned the importance of communications and teamwork while developing robots for a Monster Mash Challenge.

They also had lots of fun!

As part of this fall’s introductory Engineering Practice course, teams designed and constructed robots to pick up within three minutes as many of the 34 figurines–depicting monsters, zombies, mummies, vampires and skeletons—scattered throughout a playing field. These items were to be placed into storage vaults (holes) in each of four corners. There were points associated with each figurine character, each vault and if the points were scored during a one-minute autonomous period or the remaining two minutes when the robot was controlled remotely by a team member.

Starting with 27 teams, the highest-scoring teams advanced from each of the five rounds, until a champion was eventually crowned.

That honor went to the robot assembled by Brendan Boewe, Cory Snyder and Daniel Su, a team that had been on top of its game for several days before the main event.

“We had a strong strategy and everything was working well in the early rounds, but you never know what’s going to happen when it comes down to the finals. Fortunately, things worked out for us,” says Snyder, who controlled the winning robot on its mission.

The computer engineering student from Greenwood, Ind., adds, “This is the first time I had worked on an engineering team project at such a demanding place like Rose-Hulman. There were a lot of strong teams, and we respected all of our classmates, who are really bright in so many ways. We had to be on top of our game in each round.”

The runner-up team featured a robot built by Lucas D’Alesio, Rebekah Doherty and Kristen McKellar had an effective game plan in the early rounds, collecting several top-point figurines and placing them near the opening of the small vault opening during the autonomous time period. Then, when Doherty took over controls, the robot went back to a straight line pathway on the playing field that led to the figurines being pushed into the opening. This intricate strategy contributed to the score for each figurine being tripled. The team also utilized zip ties, four Arduino Servo motors, two drive motors and a gyroscope sensor to give its robot an edge over the competition.

“This challenge is what I thought college would be all about, and was the type of challenging activity that I knew Rose-Hulman would provide me,” says Doherty, an electrical engineering major from Erie, Colo. “I learned to take the little things I already know and expand with what I have learned nearly every day in class.”

A robot developed by Haley Baker, James Brandewie and Haiden Smith managed to advance to the semifinal round—quite an accomplishment for a team that spent most of the night before the challenge making last-minute design modifications.

“As we found out continuously, there was a lot of trial and error with a project of this magnitude. We were delighted with how well it did,” says Braker, an electrical engineering student from Rancho Cuzamonga, Calif.

A similar Monster Mash Challenge awaits another group of first-year electrical and computer engineering students during the winter academic quarter. The classroom exercise allows students to apply elements of design and production, team working, written and oral communications, along with lessons learned through trial-and-error practice. The robot’s performance doesn’t impact the students’ class grade.