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ASU robotics team prepares for summer competitions

ASU’s NASA Space Grant Robotics Team is working to improve its resources this semester to prepare for next summer’s critical competitions.

The team plans to recruit members and modify and redesign last year’s robot, Koi, to win first place in Marine Advanced Technology Education Center competition in June 2013.

Team president Matthew Plank said the established members of the team are working to recruit more members. The team had approximately 30 to 40 involved members last year.

“A lot of what we’re doing right now is training and giving tutorials to new people, introducing the robots and doing workshops,” said Plank, a computer systems engineering junior. “The senior members of the team do a lot of teaching and we pass the knowledge on.”

The team plans to include students from all majors, not just science, technology and engineering, and encourages people to attend meetings if they have an interest.

They also reach out to high schools to discuss their robotics team, Plank said.

Team member Anthony Hallas said the team became part of the Engineering Student Council this semester.

“This will help us get more members from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering,” said Hallas, a computational math science senior. “We want to make sure we go to recruiting events, like going to the (Memorial Union) to make sure people see our robots.”

The team is also beginning to improve Koi’s malfunctions that occurred during last year’s competition. Data was not sending properly during the last competition, Hallas said.

“We use this time to look at all the problems that we ran into and then work on all of those projects,” Hallas said.

The team worked to fix the sensors and tether, which are crucial to the communication between the robot and the team.

Other mechanical issues consisted of a small leak on the robot and its arms not working efficiently.

The team plans to build a fully autonomous robot in addition to updating Koi. This will enable them to participate in the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International competition in June 2013.

“We want to have a back-up robot,” Plank said.  “One that we would take to competitions and that would have all the improvements and another that we could practice with.”

The club, which is split into mechanical, programming and electrical teams, receives funding from NASA as well as partial funding and a mentor from Orbital Sciences Corporation.

The team received a $1,000 grant for placing 11th in the MATE competition for this year’s robot improvements, Plank said.

Plank estimates they will need a total of $19,000, which will include building the robot, competition entrance fees, team travel and fixing and updating other robots.

Team member Philip Burbank said the club focuses on practical applications for underwater robotics.

“We try to do real-world applications,” said Burbank, an aerospace engineering senior. “Last year’s MATE mission was trying to analyze and possibly salvage a World War II vessel.”

The team had 15 minutes to complete the given objectives, which included measuring the length of the ship, finding out its orientation in degrees and discovering what was inside the ship.

The team also wrote a 20-page paper describing the details of its robot and created a poster about the robot. The team presented its robot to three judges, he said.

The robotics team, which was created in the 2008-09 school year, holds meetings on Mondays and Thursdays in the Tempe campus Moeur building.


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