Oakland University Robotics Club’s hard work pays off

Stephanie Sokol for OU SECS

The Oakland University Robotics Association knows the value of hard work.

Taking home First Place for the Main Autonomous Navigation Challenge, Third Place in the Basic Autonomous Challenge, Third Place in the Interoperability Profile Challenge and the Grand Award for Overall Performance at the 22nd annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition didn’t come easy.

“(Winning) was an exciting moment — a stress relieving, load off the shoulders moment,” member Sami Oweis said. “It meant even more for us when we were told that we had just broke a record that was held unbeaten since the Auto-Nav challenge was developed to finish the complete advanced course.”

OU Engineering students Mike Truitt, Brian Neumeyer, Hudhaifa Jasim, Kevin Hallenbeck, Link Lorenz, Lucas Fuchs, Michael Norman, Micho Radovnikovich, Oscar Sanchez Vazquez, Parker Bidigare, Steve Grzebyk and Oweis make up the association.

IGVC was the club’s biggest event, and hundreds of hours were spent building their robot, “Mantis,” to perfect it for the international competition,

allowing them to take home the Lescoe cup for the second year in a row.

Mantis had a wheelchair-based suspension with a lightweight aluminum superstructure, the programming power of two Lenovo ThinkPad computers, a removable electronic box and green lights for effect— a combination the team knew would be effective at IGVC.

And it was— at the Mantis it became the first and only robot to ever fully complete the Advance Autonomous Challenge course which was introduced in the IGVC three years ago.

“This year we were more ready than ever before,” Hallenbeck said. “This meant more time for testing and tweaking parameters at the competition, and reasonable amounts of sleep.”

Students involved say the club is a great opportunity to apply skills honed in the classroom into the real world. In addition, it gave them experience working as a team.

Being involved since IGVC’s start, Oakland Robotics moved up from 20th, 13th and 3rd place, earning 1st for two years in a row, Grzebyk said.

“This was the eighth IGVC I’ve participated in since I was a junior in undergrad in 2007,” said Radovnikovich. “Every single year since then we’ve improved, and it was really nice to see the team reach the peak this year, my first year as an advisor.”

At this year’s competition, Oakland broke the four year record of no team completing the advanced course, making a mark on the industry and the university.

“It will be an honor if the first place trophy graces the hall of the new state of the art engineering building when it opens,” Grzebyk said. “It will serve as a reminder that we must continue with the proud tradition that this team has established, excellence in engineering and hard work.  Now it falls to the senior members to step aside and help train and mentor a new generation of eager engineers.”

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