The final four teams compete in the final round of the knockout tournament at the Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors annual robot competition. Credit: Courtesy of Bridgette Wadge

More than 220 first-year engineering students gathered at PRPP on Saturday to design, build and program robots to perform specific tasks.

At the 26th annual Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors Robot Competition, students were divided into 57 four-member teams to prepare a fully autonomous robot vehicle capable of performing a range of restoration tasks.

The teams’ robots competed in a scale model of a 1950s restaurant, dubbed “Carmen’s Diner”, in two rounds – a round robin followed by a knockout tournament, according to the event website. The robots were given two minutes to perform tasks such as flipping burgers, serving ice cream and playing songs on a jukebox.

Team E7, named Impossible Robotics, won first place in the round robin and knockout tournaments, earning each team member a $250 purse. Jasper Reckamp, ​​a first-year environmental engineering student and one of the winning team members, said he was grateful for his win given the stiff competition.

“They released the individual competition times and scores about a week before the final competition, so we knew there was a team that was 20 seconds ahead of us,” Reckamp said. “They crashed in the first round so we never faced them today – they might have beaten us otherwise.”

Impossible Robotics had four members: Reckamp; Jacob McLachlan, first-year computer science and engineering student; Tommy Polakowski, a freshman in mechanical engineering; and Brandon Young, a freshman in electrical and computer engineering. Reckamp said the team trained through the College of Engineering’s “Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors” robotics course.

The Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors course is an elective course offered to engineering students nominated by universities, Faculty of Engineering website. The program is designed to teach students the engineering principles necessary for success throughout their college career in a variety of ways, including the Saturday event.

The students self-selected teams to enter the competition and received six hours of tuition per week to work on the robots for nine weeks prior to the competition. McLachlan said while teams weren’t required to spend a lot of time outside of the classroom, it was necessary to perform well.

“We probably spent about twice as much time out of class working on it as we did in class,” McLachlan said. “It felt like a full-time job the last few weeks, but it paid off.”

Bridgette Wadge, a fourth-year mechanical engineering student and undergraduate teaching assistant for the “Fundamentals of Engineering for Honors” course, said the course is involved in competition planning.

“The course is designed and built entirely by teaching assistants,” Wadge said. “Graduate and undergraduate teaching assistants work there throughout the year.”

Wadge said the competition took nearly a full academic year of planning, and the course and competition assignments were designed during the fall semester before being revealed to students in January. The students then had from the end of January to Saturday to design, build and program their robots.

Victor Stettler, a first-year computer science and engineering student and attendee at the event, said the process of designing and building a robot was rewarding.

“The teamwork aspect has been hugely important to everyone,” Stettler said. “I got a lot out of building the software and the kind of experience of what it’s like to grow over a long period of time in a very stressful environment.”

Ray Cowen, a graduate assistant who helped organize the event, said they hope students take away from the event the importance of teamwork and refining ideas as they go. they work – an important aspect of engineering.

“Besides looking back at all they’ve been able to do in that short time and being proud of their work,” Cowen said. “We are remarkably impressed with all they have been able to do.”