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Robotics competition team places among top three in Karlsruhe, Germany

The student robotics competition team from University of Texas at Arlington Research Institute (UTARI) and University of Texas Arlington UTA) took second and third place honors at the 2013 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). The UTARI/UTA team traveled to Karlsruhe, Germany, for the competition May 6-10.

One of the team's advisors, Aditya Das, who heads UTARI's Advanced Manufacturing Division, headed to Germany to also present a paper at ICRA. Stephen Savoie, a co-author on the paper and UTARI Research Scientist I, accompanied Das and also assisted the UTARI student competitors. This year's conference focused on "Anthropomatics-Technologies for Humans." Das and Savoie's presentation was one of over 400 delivered by scientists and engineers from around the world.

UTA/UTARI Student Team Wins

The UTA/UTARI student robotics team entered two events of ICRA's Mobile Microbiotics Challenge. They achieved second and third-place finishes in the Microassembly Challenge and the Autonomous Mobility Challenge, respectively. Among seven teams, they earned the most consistently high scores. No other team placed in the top three in both contests.

UTA/UTARI student team

Poster Session of International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Karlsruhe, Germany. ICRA attendees included above: (Left) Nahum Torres, Cody Lundberg, alongside Dr. Dan Popa, and (right) Gregory Martin and Stephen Savoie.

Nahum Torres, a Ph.D. candidate at UTA, served as team captain. Working along with him were Alper Mutlu, also a UTA Ph.D. candidate, and UTA undergraduate students Monica Beltran, Gregory Martin, Paras Upreti, Jiwan Ghimire and Cody Lundberg.

Additional advisors for the students included Mohammad Mayyas, senior research scientist in UTARI's Robotics Division; Muhammed Rasid Pac, a recent Ph.D. recipient from UTA; and Caleb Nothnagle, UTARI research scientist, and Richard Stein, UTARI research scientists I.

Competitors came from Europe, Canada, and the United States. They represented institutions such as Carnegie-Mellon University, the United States Naval Academy, the Stevens Institute of Technology, and France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique.

The team was led, in part, by Dan Popa, an associate professor with the Electrical Engineering Department and head of the Next Generation Systems research group. L-3 Link Simulation & Training, along with Ron and Lucinda Cross, served as team sponsors.

For each contest, the team competed in an "arena" measuring 2 millimeters by 3.5 millimeters. The robot used for the Autonomous Mobility Challenge, a 250-micron steel sphere, ran a figure-eight course in 1.3 seconds for a third place finish - a dramatic improvement over the team's 16 second time at a previous conference.

The team developed a robot that was a 500-micron magnetic cube for the Microassembly Challenge. The robot packed triangles measuring 200x350 microns each into a narrow channel. The work earned a second place finish.

Popa expressed appreciation for team support from its sponsors, from the university and from UTARI, under the leadership of its executive director, Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, US Army (Ret.) "Gen. Lynch's commitment to our students made a huge difference to our performance," said Popa.

UTARI Presentation in Germany

While the UTA/UTARI robotics team caught the eye of fellow competitors in Germany, UTARI researchers Das and Savoie captured the attention of conference attendees . The paper they presented was entitled, "Quasi-Static Evaluation of a Modular and Reconfigurable Manufacturing Cell."

Das and Savoie showcased hardware and software for flexible, low-volume manufacturing. The basis of the hardware is that a single set of manufacturing tools in a manufacturing line can be useful for multiple products. By making them reconfigurable, it is easier and more affordable to set up a manufacturing line for a new product. The hardware life is extended, and production in lower volumes becomes more cost effective.

The software package enables optimizing a design to achieve higher output, higher precision, or to meet other manufacturing metrics. It also helps the designer determine the best configuration of a manufacturing cell for the specific item to be produced.