A team of students from Western Carolina University’s Kimmel School of Construction Management and Technology recently won the third-place trophy in the top division of a robotics competition at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ Southeastern Conference in Nashville, Tenn.
“This is a tremendous accomplishment for our students and another step forward for our engineering program,” said Robert McMahan, dean of the Kimmel School. “After last year’s first-place finish in the open division, our students advanced this year to the university division, which is the hardest and most difficult competition at the meet.”
Student teams from 39 universities participated in this competition representing “the best and brightest” across the Southeast, including N.C. State, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech and Duke, McMahan said.
“To come in third place in our first try in the division is phenomenal. It is a testament to the quality of our students and the education that they receive at Western Carolina – and to the hands-on, project-based curriculum, which emphasizes reducing to practice what they learn in the classroom.”
For this year’s hardware competition, student teams were assigned to create a simulation of a search-and-rescue operation by building a robot able to traverse a course designed to look like a section of building, with rooms, doors and hallways.
The student teams set up obstacles throughout the course so that the robot would have to move around or over them. Teams also placed “victims” in the rooms, and the robots had to be able to determine their status (alive, dead or unconscious) and their location in the room. Robots also had to detect a “hazard space” on the course by detecting a signal emanating from that room.
Teams had about four minutes for their robots to navigate the course and identify the “hazard room,” earning points for correct determination of the location of the hazard, obstacle avoidance, detection of victims, and the use of LCD and audio by the robots to relay information to team members and observers.
IEEE consists of 300,000 members worldwide who work in the area of electrical engineering and related disciplines. The Southeastern conference has members from the states of Alabama, Florida and Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, and the country of Jamaica.
WCU’s team members are:
Casey Tyler Icenhour (team captain), a junior majoring in electrical engineering. A 2008 graduate of the N.C. School of Science and Mathematics, Icenhour is the son of Gary Icenhour and Cindy Icenhour of Lenoir
Chris Roberts, a junior majoring in electrical engineering. A 2007 graduate of Smoky Mountain High School, Roberts is the son of Angie Roberts of Sylva.
Christopher Tate Beasley, a junior majoring in electrical engineering. A 2007 graduate of Robbinsville High School, Beasley is the son of Todd and Rhonda Beasley of Robbinsville.
Lee Holland, a junior majoring in electrical engineering. A 2008 graduate of Reynolds High School, Holland is the son of David and Dawn Holland of Asheville.
Oscar Gamez, a junior majoring in electrical engineering. A 2002 graduate of Pisgah High school, Gamez is the son of Arturo and Celia Gamez of Clyde.
Nathan White, a junior majoring in electrical and computer engineering technology. A 2008 graduate of Jones High School, White is the son of Kaye and Alex White of New Bern.
John Michael Ray, a junior majoring in electrical engineering. A 2007 graduate of Franklin Academy, Ray is the son of Mike and Tammy Ray of Franklinton.
Kristen Rivers, a senior majoring in electrical and computer engineering technology. A 2006 graduate of Reynolds High School, Rivers is the daughter of Brent and Judi Rivers of Asheville.
Another student – Karolynn L. Ondesko, a senior electrical and computer engineering technology major – assisted the team during the fall. A 2006 home school graduate, Ondesko is the daughter of Joseph and Mary Ondesko of Belmont.
Two graduate students also assisted the team:
Jason A. Proffitt, a graduate student in science and technology and a 2009 graduate of WCU with a degree in engineering technology. A 2005 graduate of Mountain Heritage High School, Proffitt is the son of Mike and Valencia Proffitt of Burnsville.
Christopher W. Rhoades, a graduate student in engineering technology. A 2005 home school graduate, Rhoades is the son of Mike and Diane Rhoades of Waxhaw.
Kimmel School faculty members Peter Tay and Robert Adams served as sponsors and mentors.
For more information about the Kimmel School and its programs, visit kimmel.wcu.edu.