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04-25-2016

Clarkson University Students Test Microrobot Skills in Japan

A shared interest in robotics blossomed into an annual competition and exchange of students between Clarkson University and the Japanese university Kyutech, notes Ajay Sonar, director of electrical and computer engineering laboratories at Clarkson.

Thomas DePue '16, and Jerren Fisher '16 Sonar and four students recently returned from the ninth International Micro-Mechanism Contest held at Tokyo University of Science in Japan. For the competition, students had to design 2 cm by 2 cm by 3 cm wirelessly controlled robots for two categories, barrier climbing and Sumo wrestling.

The teams placed seventh and eighth, respectively, in the two categories. Also, the two robots that were entered in the competition won the best design award. The students designed custom micro-controller boards specifically for this purpose along with 3D printed chassis.

“This was our fifth year participating and this time the competition was for one day,” Sonar said. “Other days, they had arranged for lab tours and company tours in that area, and cultural tours as well. It was a lot of fun.”

The students -- Thomas DePue '16 of Brackney, Pa., Jerren Fisher '16 of Middletown, N.Y., James Guglielmo '16 of West Henrietta, N.Y. and Riczi Kovacs '16 of Wanakena, N.Y. -- all happen to be seniors, but any student in any major is welcome to join in the contest. Limited funding means only four students can travel to Japan each year, but Sonar makes sure no graduating senior misses the opportunity.

“We already have a very good robotics program here and the competition provides good exposure to a new area within robotics," Sonar says, adding that the main application for micro-robots is in the medical field.

For example, rather than examining a patient's gastrointestinal tract with a scope, physicians can use a small pill with a tiny camera inside. Patients swallow it and it passes through their body naturally.

For this year's competition in Japan, the students needed to make a robot from scratch, control it wirelessly and make it able to flip playing dice so that a particular number points up. This year, the Clarkson team designed their own micro-controller board. While they were eliminated in the third round, they won an award for their design.

“That was nice,” Sonar adds. “And, once they build the robot, it's their robot. Our team's is back in our lab. Next year, if they want to make use to it and modify it, they can do that.”

Their ingenuity no doubt will shine in class, for special projects. Sonar asks his students to design a drone and build it from scratch design, and to design an electric car with an intelligent feature.

Spring finals are now underway, so the next competition on the horizon will take place on campus in November and December.

Clarkson University educates the leaders of the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as an owner, CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. With its main campus located in Potsdam, New York, and additional graduate program and research facilities in the Capital Region and Beacon, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university with signature areas of academic excellence and research directed toward the world's pressing issues. Through more than 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, education, sciences and the health professions, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo and connect discovery and innovation with enterprise.

Photo caption: Four Clarkson University students recently competed in the ninth International Micro-Mechanism Contest at Tokyo University of Science in Japan. Pictured (left to right), Thomas DePue '16, and Jerren Fisher '16 at the competition.

[A photograph for media use is available at http://www.clarkson.edu/news/photos/microrobots-japan-2016.jpg .]

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Annie Harrison, Director of Media Relations, at 315-268-6764 or aharrison@clarkson.edu.]

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