SPaRC robotics team wins second place at IEEE competition

Published: Apr 17, 2007 3:02:44 PM
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Auburn's Student Projects and Research Committee (SPaRC) robotics team won second place in the IEEE SoutheastCon Robotics Competition Sat., March 24, in Richmond, Va. Team members included project manager Jordan Britt, Matt Blair, Chris Everitt, Hien Nguyen, Joel Shackelford, Jason West, Amanda Bowman and Brandon Eidson. Other students providing additional support included Tim Williamson, Janine Mask, Erica Farabaugh, Elizabeth Hammonds, Brett Lamb, Mark Troop, Billy Sanders and Andrew Putnam.Team advisors were IEEE advisor A. Scottedward Hodel and HKN advisor T. A. Roppel, both from the Auburn University Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. This was the first time Auburn students competed at SoutheastCon in nearly 10 years.

"This is a big win for a group of students who had no formal robotics training to start with and had no previous competition experience to draw from," Hodel said. "Our robot performed consistently and reliably throughout the competition. It was a truly impressive showing."

Teams in the competition were asked to build an autonomous robot that could play a scale model basketball game. There were approximately 40 competitors, including Georgia Tech, North Carolina State, Clemson, Mississippi State, University of Florida, and the Citadel.

"Our robot was not the fastest there, and honestly, it was one of the ugliest," Hodel said, "but it was the only one that navigated by sonar alone, and it performed very consistently throughout the tournament."

After winning all the scheduled preliminary and semifinal rounds, Auburn was narrowly edged out in the final round by Mississippi State, with a score of 140 to 120.

"I was complimented throughout the day on the sportsmanship and generosity of our team," said Hodel. "Our students came prepared with bins of spare parts, which they shared with other teams who were unprepared. They were excellent sports, and I am extremely proud of them."

SPaRC was proposed in fall 2005 by students who wanted to gain experience outside the classroom. More than $10,000 has been donated to SPaRC related projects, including the Southeastcon competition robot. Julian Davidson, member of the ECE Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Industrial Advisory Board, was the team's sole sponsor this year, but sponsors are already lining up to help the team with next year's competition, with will be held at the University of Alabama - Huntsville.

Students benefit from SPaRC in many ways, the most notable of these being the ability to gain valuable work experience without leaving campus. Several companies have already expressed interest in SPaRC students for summer internships, co-op positions and permanent employment. Team members also gain experience in leadership and project management.

"It has been an exciting opportunity to work with this team and watch them grow, something that would not have been possible without help from our sponsors," Hodel said. "I'm looking forward to watching these students excel at future competitions and seeing them use their experience in this program as they move out into the workforce."