A trip to Germany and a cash prize may be in the future of the Millersville University Robotics team. The team has been selected as one of just 13 teams in the nation to compete in the TiM$10K challenge. The competition is organized by SICK, one of the most prominent companies for sensor-based applications and sensor intelligence.
To be selected for the competition, teams first had to submit a proposal for the research they would conduct to develop new applications for SICK. Once selected, the teams were sent a TiM-P LiDAR system for their projects. LiDAR, which stands for “light detection and ranging,” uses a special combination of 3-D scanning and laser scanning to determine ranges.
This technology is commonly used in surveying, forestry and other geographical fields, but it has also been used in the development of self-driving cars and NASA’s helicopter “Ingenuity,” which has made notable flights to Mars.
While each team chosen to compete received the SICK LiDAR system, the winning team of the TiM$10K Challenge top prize will receive $10,000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the SICK headquarters and manufacturing facility in Germany. Other schools competing include Drexel University, Northeastern University, Texas A&M and University of Pennsylvania.
Dr. John Wright, professor of Applied Engineering, Safety and Technology at MU and the robotics team co-advisor, explains that the application process was very open-ended. Additionally, Wright explains that for the competition, the team is going to use the second LiDAR system to improve their robot, A.Li.E.N.
“We are proposing a new robot design (the 4th generation robot for us) that uses the additional LiDAR sensor to improve our self-driving designs,” Wright says. “Other improvements for A.Li.E.N. 4.0, in addition to adding another LiDAR, include a self-calibrating GPS system and a smaller physical size chassis.” A smaller chassis means that the robot will have a smaller supporting frame.
“The additional LiDAR is at the heart of the navigation control,” Wright continues. “A.Li.E.N. 1.0 was originally developed for the 2019 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. In 2022, we entered two different designs, A.Li.E.N. 2.0 and A.Li.E.N. 3.0.”
The team is quite accomplished at these competitions. Last summer, A.Li.E.N. 2.0 brought home four awards: 4th place overall, the 1st Robot to Qualify Award, 2nd place for design and 6th place for performance.
‘Ville Robotics also found success last winter at the 2022 Association of Technology, Management and Applied Engineering Robotics Competition with their A.Li.E.N. bot. The team placed first overall and placed within the top three in all scoring categories.
“The team is currently fabricating the new chassis for A.Li.E.N 4.0, developing the new GPS autocalibration system and bench testing the LiDAR systems,” concludes Wright. “The team will soon transition to the integration and testing phase of the development.”
The leadership team for the SICK Challenge consists of six students, with Wright as faculty lead:
- Ian Troop, the project manager & controls team lead, is a junior automation & intelligent robotics engineering technology major
- Benjamin Wright, the manufacturing team lead, is a sophomore dual-majoring in ARET and manufacturing engineering technology
- Elizabeth Maschke, the electrical team lead, is a sophomore MFET major
- Dennis Nguyen, the team’s mechanical engineer, is a sophomore ARET major
- Ben Ambler, the team’s LiDAR Engineer, is a senior applied engineering and technology management major with a concentration in robotics and control systems technology
- Ermias Wogari, the team’s GPS Engineer, is a senior ARET major
In addition to the SICK Challenge, Dr. John Haughery, advisor and coordinator for Automation & Intelligent Robotics Engineering Technology at MU, will be taking four students to Harrisburg on March 7. Ian Troop, Elizabeth Maschke, Zane Weaver, and Dennis Nguyen will be presenting the students’ robotics research at the Capital as one of two student/faculty research project teams nominated to present research from MU.
Later in March, Haughery will accompany three students to a meeting with Millersville’s Council of Trustees. Troop, Maschke, and Benjamin Wright will present general information about the ARET program and A.Li.E.N. 2.0’s recent accomplishments.
The entire team, which consists of around 20 students, will be working hard until their April 14 deadline. For more information about ARET, click here.