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This article was originally published on 04/15/2014. Information and links within may no longer be applicable.

Virginia Western students, community members compete for robotic glory

Students and judge viewing robotics track Team R2D2 robot

In honor of the fifth annual National Robotics Week from April 5-13, Virginia Western Community College held a Robotics Invitational Competition with a packed gym of team competitors on Tuesday, April 8.

The techno-evening of robots and fun was sponsored by the Virginia Western School of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and the Engineering Program. The competition is designed for middle school, high school and college robotics teams and science classes, and features a different challenge each year. The challenge for this year was to design a robot vehicle to autonomously navigate an oval track with obstacles. Teams were judged and graded on obstacle course completion, time, technical report and each team’s formal presentation.

Twelve teams raced the track and clock in tight competition, with Team Terminator taking high honors and Team R2D2 earning a special “best-looking design” category. Both Team Terminator and Team R2D2 consisted of Virginia Western first-year engineering students, with members listed below.

Team Terminator                                                                   

Chris Mullen, Roanoke City

Michael Reppa, Salem

Joe Reppa,  Salem

Team R2D2  

Brandon Belz, Botetourt County

Smit Patel, SW Roanoke County

Libby Rhodes, Botetourt County

Zoe Smith, Salem

Connor Zeller, SE Roanoke County

Each robot’s base design starts with a Parallax robot kit with specific rules on performance and a limited budget for additional parts. Each robot entry must also contain a part made by the robotics team on a rapid prototype (3D) printer.

The Roanoke Robotics club exhibited multiple autonomous robots and automation projects as a “halftime show. The intermission was introduced by master of ceremonies robot with a wireless camera system with both radio control and an autonomous power shutdown when an impending collision is detected.

The Roanoke Robotics Club’s Schilke family delighted the attendees with their full-size and functional Dr. Who Dalek robot, made available for riding inside around the Virginia Western gym.

Sumo bots are small robots designed to push the other competing robot out of the ring, similar to Japanese sumo wrestlers.  Robotics club members and the Back Creek Cub Scout Den 224 demonstrated radio controlled sumo-bots to the cheering crowds.

TMEIC was the event’s corporate sponsor, and engineers from TMEIC, GE and the Roanoke Robotics Club served as judges.

National Robotics week is:

  • Celebrating the United States as a leader in robotics technology development
  • Inspiring students of all ages to pursue careers in robotics and other Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) related fields
  • Educating the public about how robotics technology impacts society, both now and in the future
  • Advocating for increased funding for robotics technology research and development
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