PULLMAN, Wash. — Dozens of students and their robots — all with functions
and minds of their own — competed in contests of speed, agility and climbing
ability as their “final exam” in December at Washington State University.

The robots emerged from a mountainous supply of Lego parts in Mindstorm
Robot Kits, donated to WSU’s freshman engineering design class.

The introductory design class is meant to give potential engineering students
their first taste of creating in teams and having some fun while so doing.
Students say “it’s a blast” to create robot athletes with Legos, adding special
sensors, gears, motor drives and other doodads.

The winner of the team competition created a robot able to finish all three
events autonomously.

The robot kits were purchased with a $10,000 gift from the Charles DeVlieg
Foundation. The foundation is headed by Janet DeVlieg Pope, a Clarkston
resident who with her husband, Jim Pope, owns and operates an airstrip and
helicopter service in Clarkston. The foundation, which spun off from her father
C.B DeVlieg’s machine and tool manufacturing company in Royal Oak,
Michigan, supports engineering education at U of I, Lewis-Clark College, and
WSU, as well as local wildlife research.

Students learned about mechanics, sensors, programming and strategic
planning with their projects — as well as working in teams. The kits will be
ready for use by another batch of future technology leaders at WSU this
spring.

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