Robots at play

Robots at play
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buy this photo Mechanical Engineering student Brent Piercy groans as his robotic shuffleboarder "Buddha Bot" sends the puck too far down the board during a competition in Kelley Engineering Center on Monday afternoon. (Jesse Skoubo|Corvallis Gazette-Times)
  • robot shuffleboard
  • robotics
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Shuffleboard isn't just for humans anymore, OSU competition proves

Robots battled in Corvallis on Monday, but their battlefield wasn't the urban landscape as in, say, the "Transformers" movies. Instead, these robots slugged it out over shuffleboard courts.

The atrium at Oregon State University's Kelley Engineering Center was the venue where a group of shuffleboard-playing robots - yes, robots - caused quite a commotion. The robots were designed and built by 36 electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering and computer science students taking an interdisciplinary applied robotics class.

Monday was the students' chance for their robots to compete against each other on opposite sides of one of six 88-inch by 16-inch tables in games of shuffleboard to test their robots' abilities - and to have some fun.

Divided into groups of three or four that combined the three different majors, students had to design and build a robot that could "sense" the puck on the table and propel it as close to the center of the table as possible to score points. Depending on where the puck landed, the robot could score from one to four points per turn.

In other words, this was not the kind of competition one might imagine upon first hearing the words "robots playing shuffleboard." No robots were standing on spindly metallic legs, wearing Bermuda shorts.

The game of shuffleboard was chosen because it involves a simple motion for the robot whose accuracy is easy to assess.

Jonathan Hurst, a mechanical engineering professor who teaches the class, said the motion and assessment sound easy, but the task of designing and building the robot that can perform that simple motion is anything but simple. It requires software coding, plus mechanical and electronic design. Oh, and it has to work.

Hurst warned the students it wasn't easy, and he was right.

Tim Tunnermann, a senior in mechanical engineering, and his teammates electrical engineering senior Levi Carey and mechanical engineering graduate student Dane Eastlick (dubbed the "Puck Flingers") spent a combined total of about 200 hours on their robot. It used an air compressor to propel the robotic arm. The first eight weeks of the term were spent designing and constructing the robot. They spent the past two weeks refining it.

Now it's better than a passenger on a cruise liner; the robot routinely bested humans, thanks to its consistency.

"Unless you're an experienced player, it's tough to get the puck in the same place every time," Tunnermann said. No problem, if you're a robot.

Mechanical engineering senior Austin Mosley estimates his group, named the Funky Town Monkey Pimps, devoted considerable time to design and construction. Their robot used a variable-height ramp to send the puck down the table. Still, it was worth it; Mosley and his group, electrical and computer engineering seniors Scott Miller and Robert Pearson, all have taken a few classes with other engineering majors before, but the valuable collaborative experience was nothing like what was required for this class.

"This is definitely the most intense one," Mosley said.

Contact Gazette-Times reporter Gail Cole at 541-758-9510 or gail.cole@gazettetimes.com.



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