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MTSU students make major impact at National Roboti...

MTSU students make major impact at National Robotics Challenge

For the second consecutive year, members of the MTSU Robotics Club shined at the National Robotics Challenge at the Marion County Fairgrounds in Marion, Ohio.

This year, MTSU emerged with gold and silver awards in the Mini-Sumo Robot competition, silver and bronze in Combat Robot competition and a bronze in the Autonomous Vehicles Challenge.

MTSU's Wenbo Dong makes an adjustment to his robot.

As two judges observe, Wenbo Dong, left, an MTSU computational sciences graduate student, makes an adjustment to his entry in the Mini-Sumo Robot competition at the National Robotics Challenge in Marion, Ohio. Dong captured first place. Also shown are Jazlyn Villafuerte, top right, Dustin Arnold and Jaquelin Villafuerte. (MTSU photo by Vishwas Bedekar)

MTSU’s winners included:

• Wenbo Dong, a computational sciences graduate student from Beijing, China, who earned first place in the Mini Sumo robot competition and second place in Combat Robot event.

NRC logo• Jacob Pawelski, senior and team captain from Elmwood, Tennessee; junior Sarah Zakaria of Thompson’s Station, Tennessee, and sophomore Michael Boyte of Frederick, Maryland — all mechatronics engineering majors — for a third-place showing in Combat Robot.

 Murfreesboro junior mechatronics majors Corey Gamache, team captain, and Nick Bledsoe and Alex Davis-Snow, who captured third place in the Autonomous Vehicles Challenge.

“The teams did extremely well considering they won gold and silver awards in the Mini-Sumo competition at the postsecondary level and the other awards,” said Dr. Vishwas Bedekar, club adviser and an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Technology.

“Overall, it was a very productive competition for us, and the students learned a lot from this exposure.”

MTSU students compete at National Robotics Challenge

MTSU engineering technology students Nathaniel Blankenship, left, Molly Scott, Brandon Soundara, Nicole Chandler, Jackson Rumley and Piro Meleby are shown with a robot entry at the National Robotics Challenge in Marion, Ohio. (MTSU photo by Vishwas Bedekar)

The Mini-Sumo Robot needs to be self-propelled, self-controlled and powered by electrical batteries and must be able to sense the other competition robot, Bedekar said.

In Combat Robot, students design and create a single, custom-built machine that employs one or more methods of destroying or disabling their robot competitor. In the Autonomous Vehicle Challenge, each team had to design and build a vehicle to try to navigate an obstacle course in less than five minutes.

More than 1,300 students from 80 schools from eight states brought approximately 450 robots to compete in college and university, high school, middle school and elementary school divisions, event organizers said. MTSU’s on-site rivals were the University of Missouri-Kansas City and Case Western Reserve University.

A trio of MTSU National Robotics Classic teammates

Sisters Jazlyn Villafuerte, left, and Jaquelin Villafuerte of Smyrna, Tenn., flank Mini-Sumo Robot teammate Dustin Arnold of Manchester, Tenn., to show off their entry at the National Robotics Challenge in Marion, Ohio. (MTSU photo by Vishwas Bedekar)

The MTSU club has been participating at the nationals since 2016 when MTSU was a Mini-Sumo Robot finalist.

Dr. Vishwas Bedekar

Dr. Vishwas Bedekar

The robotics club student chapter in the Department of Engineering Technology “has been consistently improving each year in terms of teams’ performances across competitions at the National Robotics Challenge,” Bedekar said.

Bedekar acknowledged support from Dr. Walter Boles, engineering technology chair, along with student activity fee funds and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Chapter 43 in Nashville, as contributing to the students’ success.

“Without these supporting entities, it would be impossible to make progress toward these student projects and creative activities,” Bedekar said.

MTSU has more than 240 combined undergraduate and graduate programs. Engineering technology is one of 11 College of Basic and Applied Sciences departments.

— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)

Wenbo Dong

MTSU graduate student Wenbo Dong holds the certificate he received for capturing the gold award in the Mini-Sumo Robot competition at the National Robotics Challenge in Marion, Ohio. He also earned second place in the Combat Robot competition during the event. (MTSU photo by Vishwas Bedekar)

Jacob Pawelski

Jacob Pawelski, captain of an MTSU mechatronics engineering team, shows the entry that earned third place in the Combat Robot competition at the National Robotics Challenge at Mason, Ohio. (MTSU photo by Vishwas Bedekar)


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