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UCF robotics team vehicle wins $5,000

Contributing Writer

Published: Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Updated: Wednesday, June 30, 2010 17:06

Central Florida Future

Andy Ceballos

The UCF Robotics team won second place at the third annual International Autonomous Surface Vehicle Competition held in Virginia Beach in early June.

They received a $5,000 prize and also won the $500 Sportsmanship and Cooperation award.

UCF competed against 12 other schools from around the country in the surface vehicle designing and operating competition. UCF's Robotics team's surface vehicle was equipped with GPS navigation, water cannons and computer vision. Each year the competition has a theme to make the event more fun for the participating teams.

This year's ASVC theme was "Lord of the Rings." The team designed, built and navigated a surface vehicle designed to leave a dock properly, travel along a course of colored buoys and obstacles and navigate around the buoys all while avoiding the yellow ones. One of the buoys had a ring attached to it, signifying the "one ring" in the LOTR trilogy.

Each boat was designed to pick up the ring and continue to travel around the course, shooting down targets with the water cannons, dumping the ring into the "land of Mordor, in the fires of Mount Doom," or a purple octagon on the shore, and return to the dock safely in 20 minutes.

The competition lasted a total of three days. The first two days are used for practice when the team can take their boat out onto the water and get a feel for the course.

Although the team lost its two-year winning streak to the University of Michigan, Daniel Barber, the team's academic adviser, was happy to bring home second place.

"Because this competition promotes working together and with other schools, I am proud of it," Barber said. "It feels good to win second, even though we won first the last two times."

Jonathan Mohlenhoff, the robotics club president and recent UCF graduate, was a little disappointed the team lost its winning streak but happy with their standing.

"It feels great, and even though we won second, the competition almost doubled in size from last year, so getting second is still a great accomplishment," Mohlenhoff said.

Keeping this attitude and working together and with other schools is exactly why the team won the Sportsmanship and Cooperation award.

"We did help out the other schools if we had tools or something that they needed or forgot that day while we weren't using them," Barber said.

Mohlenhoff has been involved in robotics for the past five years, starting with his freshman year.

As club president, Mohlenhoff has taken a more administrative role, making sure students have school funding and internal sponsors to guide them to competitions.

Within the robotics club there are two distinct teams: the surface vehicle team that competes in the ASVC and the underwater team that competes in other such events.

The club goes to three competitions a year: a surface vehicle, underwater and an  Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers competition.

Anyone can join the robotics team and is not obligated to compete, but encouraged to participate and contribute to weekly meetings.

The UCF registered club costs $40 a year to join. Current team members include Chris Bunty (team leader), Jonathan Mohlenhoff (club president), Travis Goldberg, Kiran Bernard, Ross Kerley, Mike Podel, Nick Yielding, Brian Valentino, Gary Stein (robotics advisor) and Daniel Barber (academic advisor).

"The goal of this club is to educate students in this field and hopefully help some get good jobs with this kind of experience," Barber said.

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