Robotics competes in ST. Louis Thursday


NICK FISHER, Executive Editor

The University of Northern Iowa’s chapter of the Association of Technology Management and Applied Engineering robotics team will travel to St. Louis for a ten-team intercollegiate competition Thursday. 

ATMAE’s 14th annual competition will be the first for all five members of the team. This year’s competition will feature a Robot Olympics setup consisting of four events: a 20-yard dash, a 10-lb dumbbell weightlift, a marathon golf ball pickup and a field goal kick.

Faced with this challenge, the team began work on their robot almost ten weeks ago.

“The robot is a combination of electrical and mechanical systems. It is controlled using a VEX Cortex controller. On the back is the lifting mechanism, which uses a basic pulley system,” said Matt Mullesch, president of UNI’s chapter of ATMAE and senior electrical engineering technology major. 

The robot also features a special retractable kicking mechanism, pressurized using a repurposed paintball gun CO2 tank and coil. The team worked creatively with what they could find, constructing a more-than-capable robot.

“It may look a little complicated but in principle it’s simple, and we designed it that way to eliminate the complexities. The simpler the system, the easier it is to troubleshoot and the fewer problems there are when it comes to the competition,” Mullesch said. 

A scrappy robot composed of a scavenged collection of parts is just what Frasier Dew, freshman technology and engineering education major, had in mind. 

Dew liked the open-ended nature of the project. “It’s nice with an open-sourced project because you get to look at things from any perspective you want and just attack it.”

The robotics program provides its members with a medium to implement classroom principles learned in a practical application. 

“For me, it’s been an outlet to be creative. We’ve got a really good group of guys. Everybody’s working long and late doing their share,” said Bronson Chevalier, senior electrical engineer technology and technology management major.

Dew, the sole freshmean of the team, said he has learned some valuable lessons from his more experienced teammates.

According to Joshua Flack, electrical engineering technology major and ATMAE team member, UNI’s team may have an advantage; four out of its five members are veterans of the field. 

“Since we’re [mostly] non-traditional students, we have more real-world experience. I’ve been working with electronics for twenty-plus years. So we bring more to the table than just the normal kid right out of high school,” Flack said.

Chevalier credits the influence of four non-traditional students as the catalyst for this team-based environment. 

“I think there is an element of maturity here; we have an older group and that means more experience. As a result of that [experience], each of us is capable of being a leader when called upon,” Chevalier said.  

That element of maturity may just give them the winning edge Thursday.