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Clarkson University Students Test Micro-robot Skills in Japan

A team of electrical & computer engineering students from Clarkson University recently returned from the tenth International Micro-Mechanism Contest in Japan, bringing home an Idea Award for the design of their robot and the custom actuator mechanism that allows it to flip dice.

The barrier-climbing and dice-operating robot named NikolaThe event was held by the Japan Society for Precision Engineering Micro/Nano-System Research Committee at the Keio University Yagami Campus in Yokohama.

This is the sixth year that his students have participated in the competition, noted Ajay Sonar, director of electrical and computer engineering laboratories at Clarkson, and the designs just keep getting better. This annual contest and exchange of students between Clarkson University and the Japanese college Kyutech (Kyushu Institute of Technology) also keeps evolving, he added.

The sumo competition robot named MORN.“We are working on making this more sustainable for the long term and want to include an international exchange/internship component to it, beyond just the competition. Clarkson was the only university from the U.S. there,” he said. “The micro-mechanism contest was part of an exchange program with Kyutech. The hope is to extend this to a one-semester program.”

Sonar's students –electrical engineering and physics honors program major Emily Fabian '18 of Marcellus, N.Y.; electrical engineering major Smriti Dasgupta '17 of Queens, N.Y.; electrical engineering major Chris Hutton '17 of Hurley, N.Y.; and electrical engineering major Brianne Speranza '17 of Andover, N.J. – entered two little robots into the competition. Nikola was in the barrier-climbing and dice-operating category, while MORN (Move Out Right Now) was in the sumo competition. Remember though, that's sumo for micro-robots. This tiny toughie is like a plow that can push around a weight equal to two quarters.

Front row (left to right): Smriti Dasgupta, Brianne Speranza and other competitors. Back row: Emily Fabian, Chris Hutton and other competitors. “The contest emphasis is on wireless robots, with some obstacles and gates. We use Bluetooth and a custom joy stick to drive the robot around,” Sonar said. “The edge of the rink is marked with black tape so we want to add a color sensor the next time.”

Designing the robots used to be an extracurricular project, but it made sense to make it a senior design project. The students devote one full semester to work on the robot, and then build it in the spring. Sonar teaches his students how to design their own motor board and everything else the robot needs.

As he noted, once they graduate and get a job, they'll need to know how to do multiple things.

“They had a lot of fun with this project,” he said. “They also learned programming and design, and more.”

Now, the semester is nearly finished and his students are prepping to compete at an event in Rochester, N.Y.

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 tenth International Micro-Mechanism Contest in Japan. Front row (left to right): Smriti Dasgupta, Brianne Speranza and other competitors. Back row: Emily Fabian, Chris Hutton and other competitors.

Photo caption The barrier-climbing and dice-operating robot named Nikola.

Photo caption The sumo competition robot named MORN.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Kelly Chezum, VP for External Relations, at 315-268-4483 or]

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