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Five mechanical engineering majors are building a robot that they will enter in a BattleBots tournament in San Francisco, Calif., in early May.

The robot is being created as a senior design project by team leader Darren James (Emmaus, Pa.), Melissa Fiorelli (Yardley, Pa.), William Faust (Pottstown, Pa.), David Cheli (Spring Lake, N.J.), and Blaine Williams (Torrington, Conn). They are advised by Leonard Van Gulick, Mathew Baird Professor of Mechanical Engineering.

The engineers spent last semester planning and designing their robot, which will maintain the same basic model as the one created by last year’s team, but will also improve on its strengths.

“We kept the same front wedge and flipping arm concept, but our robot will be lower to the ground and have a stronger arm to cause more offensive damage,” says Fiorelli.

The students also made changes in the frame design. The sides will be rounded instead of flat to help with defense. “The rounded sides will eliminate a huge surface for impact,” notes Fiorelli.

The team spent the beginning of this semester ordering all of the parts and lining up sponsors to donate money and materials: Wilson Products, Schaller Inc., Vantec, and National Power Chair. The students are now working on the beginning steps of the final construction stage.

“We are now cutting pieces and starting to build the frame,” says Fiorelli. “It’s nice to finally see the things we planned come together.”

Once finished, the seniors will travel with their BattleBot, which has yet to be named, to Treasure Island to see how it fares against competitors’ robots in a tournament of one-on-one, three-minute duels. Using a remote control, one student must maneuver the robot around a 48-square-foot ring raised two feet from the ground, facing an opponent while negotiating hazards such as circular saw blades protruding from the floor. To win, the robot must incapacitate its opponent, but if neither robot is disabled, judges determine a winner according to a point system that rewards robots that are more aggressive, cause more damage, and execute the best strategy.

Last May, Lafayette’s BattleBot team, led by John Fink ’01 (York, Pa.), advanced to the final round of 16 contestants, losing to a former champion in a close match that aired on the national TV program “Comedy Central Sports Presents BattleBots.”

Fiorelli is confident that this year’s team will fare just as well. And the reward for the students’ efforts will extend far beyond the potential cash prizes and television appearances.

“I’ve learned a lot already,” explains Fiorelli, “This experience has taught me things that I will carry with me into my futureand into my job interviews.”

Categorized in: Academic News