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U Minnesota Engineering Students Show Off 'Useful' Robots

Last year's entrants included a Nerf gun robot that automatically found a target and shot it three times, a robot that sorted marbles by color, a "Discord-o-Bot" that played notes on an electric keyboard and a robot that filled a neoprene water bottle. This year's Robot Show at the University of Minnesota is expected to feature a 3D drawing robot, a "Towers of Hanoi" solver, a "Connect 4" player and a magnet juggler. All have been created by students in an Introduction to Engineering class in the university's College of Science and Engineering.

The assignment given to students was to create computer-controlled machines that "do something interesting and useful." Each student received a kit of parts and was told he or she could add materials, as long as those cost no more than $50.

The definition of useful was left up to the individual student, but at a minimum the creation was expected to involve some kind of motion that could be seen from a reasonable distance.

"In class, we provided the basics of design, robotics, sensing and rapid prototyping," said course instructor Tim Kowalewski, a mechanical engineering assistant professor. "Students were free to design anything they liked but had to build their robots from scratch. They had to be really creative to apply what they learned to meet tight deadlines and cost constraints, just like real-world engineers."

The show was the culmination of six weeks of work. The results were viewable by members of the public today.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @schaffhauser.

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