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K-State Today Student Edition

August 20, 2012



Setting the standard: Robotics team takes sixth consecutive win at international competition

By Communications & Marketing

Kansas State University's student robotics team has clinched its sixth consecutive championship in the American Society of Biological and Agricultural Engineers' international student robotics competition.

The university has never lost the competition. This year's event was at the recent international meeting of the society in Dallas. Kansas State University defeated Oklahoma State University, Texas A&M University, the University of Illinois and McGill University for top honors.

Naiqian Zhang, professor of biological and agricultural engineering and the team's adviser, says the students approach the competition with a focused mindset.

"The students do not consider any other possibility except winning," he said.

The student robotics competition is aimed at designing solutions to common agricultural issues. Automation of cattle feeding in a feedlot was this year's challenge. Teams had to program a robot that could disperse different, prescribed amounts of feed -- pellets -- to 24 feeding pens on an 8-by-8-foot board. Points were awarded for speed, accuracy and elegance of design.

Kansas State University's team developed a plan for the robot to make six stops, dispersing pellets to four feeding pens with each stop. The team finished the competition within 55 seconds.

Brainstorming began for the project in early February. Building began in April and extensive work began in May, according to Zhang. Members volunteer for the team and elect leadership that serves until the competition.

Zhang says the team's slogan is critical to its success.

"Our slogan is, 'We're not going there to compete. We're going there to win,'" he said. "We have not been competing with any other teams. We've been competing with ourselves. We don't know what other teams will do. We pay great attention to details and we leave no stone unturned."

Another important aspect of the team's success in the competition was its use of 3-D printing, a process where an object is created by laying down successive layers of material based on a digital design. The university's department of mechanical and nuclear engineering has a 3-D printer, which the robotics team used extensively. The technology is finding wide application and is considered unique and significant for manufacturing technology, Zhang said.

"This is a new trend in manufacturing and design that actually helped us become successful," Zhang said.

Financial support for the robotics team has come from a variety of sources. The university's College of Engineering, department of biological and agricultural engineering and Student Governing Association have provided funding for the competition the last few years. The team also has had several corporate sponsors, including: AGCO Corporation, Hesston; Depco LLC, Pittsburg; and the Kansas section of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.

Team members include:

Spencer Kepley, concurrent master's and bachelor's student in biological and agricultural engineering, Chanute; Daniel Bigham, May 2012 bachelor's and master's graduate in biological and agricultural engineering, Meriden; Brent Ware, concurrent master's and bachelor's student in biological and agricultural engineering and team vice president, Mission; Grant Brady, junior in biological systems engineering, Shawnee; and Jared "Jed" Barker, master's student in biological and agricultural engineering, Topeka.

From out of state: Joseph Dvorak, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, Perry, Okla.; and Jocelyn Clemons, senior in agricultural technology management and team treasurer, Austin, Texas.

From out of country: Xu "Kevin" Wang, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, Yong Wei, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, and Man "Mandy" Zhang, visiting scholar, all from China; and Marvin Petingco, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering and team secretary, Philippines.