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Robot Stories: Interdisciplinary Design With Autonomous Robots

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1999 Annual Conference


Charlotte, North Carolina

Publication Date

June 20, 1999

Start Date

June 20, 1999

End Date

June 23, 1999



Page Count


Page Numbers

4.453.1 - 4.453.10

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Paper Authors

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James Devault

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Session 2220

Robot Stories: Interdisciplinary Design with Autonomous Mobile Robots

James E. DeVault Electrical and Computer Engineering Kansas State University


Over the past seven years, interdisciplinary teams of engineering students have designed mobile robots to compete in an annual robot contest. Open to all students that have completed engineering physics, the mobile robotics course requires teamwork, project management, and a mixture of theoretical understanding and laboratory skills. Mobile robots are constructed to compete in events ranging from maze navigation to sumo wrestling. Students develop skills in both mechanical and electrical fabrication while designing mechanisms, electronic circuits, and computer programs to support autonomous, situated operation. Each spring semester the students’ work culminates in a public contest held during engineering open house that is viewed by several thousand students, parents, and visitors. Contest events are designed by a committee of past-year participants and are different every year. Robots are constructed from a kit of parts including a specific microprocessor, motors, batteries and an assortment of sensors. Students generally add a wide variety of creative accessories such as extendible manipulators, decoy beacons, and air cannons. Late night sessions in the laboratory, unique contest strategies, exotic robot features, and satisfying student outcomes provide an ample source of stories to be shared.


The first Kansas State University mobile robot contest (1993) was an offshoot of an informal experiment in undergraduate research, the MARS Lab (Mobile Autonomous Robotic Systems Laboratory) [1]. The following year, a mobile robotics course was developed to support and enhance these activities. The contest is now in its seventh year and continues to serve as a showcase of our students’ work and as a vehicle for interdisciplinary engineering education. This paper briefly describes the mobile robotics course and the mobile robot contest [2] and then relates several stories about the students’ robots. It is hoped that some measure of the students’ success and excitement will be apparent and that this work may motivate similar efforts at other institutions.

Devault, J. (1999, June), Robot Stories: Interdisciplinary Design With Autonomous Robots Paper presented at 1999 Annual Conference, Charlotte, North Carolina.

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