News Release

Robots do some heaving lifting at annual robotics competition

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The winning team at this year's MAE 3 robotics competition. From left: Dianne Foronda, Christopher Bayag, Carlos Serrano and Shushoma Sravostee. 

San Diego, Calif., June 19, 2017 -- She was about to drop out of an engineering design class that culminates in a robotics competition. But Shushoma Sravostee’s classmates stepped in to help, offering support and reassurance. On June 13, she and her three teammates won the overall competition, taking home intricate 3D-printed trophies—and bragging rights.

In addition to technical know-how, Sravostee and her classmates said they learned the value of team work. “We were in the design studio for three hours, every day,” the environmental engineering major said. “If it had been just work, I wouldn’t have made it. I love my team.”

Students had 10 weeks to design their robot as part of the MAE 3 class for freshmen and sophomores as well as junior transfer students. The class culminates in a contest at the Muir Gym. More than 200 students divided into 48 teams took part in the event.

To earn first place, students had to build a robot capable of picking up billiard balls from different heights and dropping them into a triangle-shaped area, simulating the rack where balls are stored at the beginning of each pool game. The robots are driven remotely by two students on each team. The goal was to pick up as many balls as possible while competing against another team.

In past years, robots built by students have had to manipulate golf balls and whiffle balls, in competitions with themes ranging from Star Wars to the Olympics. This year, the main challenge was to lift heavy objects, hence the billiard balls, said Nick Gravish, a mechanical engineering professor who co-taught the class with fellow mechanical engineering professor Javier Garay.

“The students have surpassed our expectations,” Gravish said. “Their designs are really impressive.”

The winning robot had a drawbridge-like structure that allowed it to both pick up and drop off the billiard balls. “We had a simple design but we pulled it off,” said Dianne Foronda, a freshman and member of team RAMP-age, the competition winners.

Working on a project that actually had to deliver results is a great experience for aspiring engineers, Garay said. “You can’t just use example problems,” he added.

MAE 3 provides students with invaluable hands-on experience, Gravish said. Students can chose to spend as much, or as little, time as they want on their robot. For Sravostee and her team, that meant showing up in the design studio in the EBU-II building three hours a day, every day. The studio is equipped with laser cutters and 3D printers. Students also have access to the machine shop.

All the hours spent in the lab allowed the team to come together. “Our chemistry is what helped,” Foronda said. “Also, we had good driving skills.”


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Dianna Foronda (right) reacts as her team wins a match during the competition. 


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From left, Nick Gravish, a mechanical engineering professor who co-taught MAE 3 this spring; PhD student and TA Daniel Yang; and Nate Delson, a teaching professor who oversees the hands-on learning and design classes in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. 


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Students share a laugh during the MAE 3 competition. 


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The winning robot, nicknamed Draw-shua. 
Media Contacts

Ioana Patringenaru
Jacobs School of Engineering