Get Nerdy: Robotics club gets elevated

By Gus Bode

Can robotic competitions rival that of sporting events? Many of the students working in the SIUC Robotics Club think so.

The SIUC Robotics club is scheduled to announce rules March 28 for its ‘Elevation’ competition, which will pit teams’ robots against one another as they attempt to place cubes in four bins varying in height from ground level to two feet high, said Martin Hebel, a faculty advisor for C Robotics.

The competition, scheduled for April 25, is one of many projects students are working on, including a project to be entered in a competition sponsored by NASA.


The April 25 competition requires teams to build a robot that will fit in a two-by-two foot box. The SIUC Robotics club is scheduled to host the event in Engineering Building A, room 131. Any Registered Student Organization is invited to participate.

‘There will be no weight constraints. The only constraint is that it has to be safe,’ said David Gitz, a senior from Freeport studying electrical engineering.

He said the club would provide teams with tools, a kit of parts if needed and a panel of experts for technical support.

While the competitions are fun, Gitz said SIUC Robotics started as a means of bringing different groups together.

‘We knew the mechanical engineering students, technology students and electrical engineering students were all doing a lot of good work but there was a big communication gap,’ Gitz said.

Tyler Madding, a senior from Decatur studying industrial technology, said the club enjoys competitions, but also takes them seriously and wants to win each time.

The NAIT robot was the first project built by the group and it won in a head-to-head competition last year held by the National Association for Industrial Technology.


‘The NAIT design team was the before-and-after effect. We saw a need to bring people together and had people willing to help,’ he said.

Madding said once the robotics club was started, the disconnect between different majors disappeared.

Of the 14 robots Gitz has built, he said the NAIT robot was his favorite because it placed first in a major competition.

‘ ‘Working on these projects helps not only with learning the electrical side of things, but it also helps working with people you do not initially know,’ said Whitney Belt, a senior from Mt. Carmel studying mechanical engineering and automotive technology.

Belt, who belongs to ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineering), is helping build a robot for a competition sponsored by NASA.

The competition requires teams to build a robot no taller than six inches that can pick up small rocks in a low-gravity environment and scale a 4×4 foot piece of wood.

Michael Welling, a doctoral candidate from Carbondale studying electrical and computer engineering, said he would design the control system. ‘

‘I’m working on the micro control unit with a wireless Bluetooth serial control mechanism,’ he said.

The robot will communicate with an UMPC (ultra mobile personal computer) and the computer will communicate with a Nintendo Wii controller, he said.

‘The UMPC is the bridge between the Wii controller and the robot,’ he said.

The SIUC Robotics club does not keep its technical wizardry locked away in the Engineering Building as it shares its know-how with local high school students and community members as well.

Gitz has advised Brehm Prep School for three years while Martin Hebel, an associate professor in electrical systems technology, helps put on summer camps to teach basic electronic systems technology to Carbondale High School students with electrical systems projects.

Chris McGregor can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 275 or [email protected]