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Two students and Eddie win National Robothon Competition

PULLMAN  -Two Washington State University students received a first place award at the Seattle Robotics Society’s national Robothon competition held at the Seattle Center Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.

WSU School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science students Brent Allen, of Kirkland, and Dan Strother, of Kent, placed first in the Robo-Magellan category competition with their robot “Eddie.” Their entry was the only one of the 11 robots in the competition to completely maneuver through an outdoor course with both natural and manmade terrain obstacles.

This was the second appearance for Eddie at Robothon, where the robot and the WSU Robotics Club last year earned the Judges’ Choice award.

Eddie is a wheeled vehicle measuring about two feet tall and weighing less than 50 pounds. A series of circular, proximity sensors stare out from its top like giant eyes. A camera sits on top of the sensors. Information from the sensors, the camera, and sonar are collected in Eddie’s computer. With the use of an internal compass, the robot’s computer gives instructions to two steering controllers and six wheel motor controllers that direct its movements.

Eddie’s hardware has changed very little since the robot was created in the spring of 2005 by Allen, Strother and former student, Nick Juliano who graduated last May with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. However, Allen and Strother – both seniors majoring in electrical engineering – have put numerous hours into the robot’s software development since that time, working to update and improve the visual and navigation algorithms the robot uses.

“After months of working on this project it was great to see Eddie actually doing what it is supposed to do and being successful was great,” said Allen. The success was all that much sweeter as the parents of both students were able to attend the competition.

Allen and Strother are hoping that the success of Eddie will increase interest in the WSU Robotics Club, which receives funding from the School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering. The robotics club is open to any WSU student interested in robots.

“It’s a good opportunity to work on big team projects as well as smaller individual projects,” said Strother “plus we have good equipment and lab space for electrical or mechanical projects.”

The Robothon is a national event that showcases the capabilities and technological developments in robotics from the amateur robotics community with the goal of promoting science and technology to the general public.

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