Autonomous Robots Use Speed, GPS Tracking at 2018 Design Competition

Eight robots took part in the competition on May 12

Students watch their robot compete in the arena.Students watch their robot compete in the arena.
The 27th annual Design Competition took place in the Ford Shop on May 12.The 27th annual Design Competition took place in the Ford Shop on May 12.
Winning team (left to right): Simon Zhao, Eric Hao, and Sean YeWinning team (left to right): Simon Zhao, Eric Hao, and Sean Ye
A small visitor watches a robot during the competitionA small visitor watches a robot during the competition
Students get their robot ready before competition.Students get their robot ready before competition.

A student-designed, autonomous robot named "VeggieButt” took down the competition to win Northwestern’s 27th annual Design Competition. In a feat of speed and agility, VeggieButt bested second-place team Team Phoenix for the $1,000 award.


A student gets her robot ready for competition.“Find that Block!” took place Saturday, May 12 at the Ford Motor Company Engineering Design Center. During the competition, robots were randomly assigned to look for either steel cubes or cylinders scattered throughout the arena. Once found, they were brought back to areas marked with a circle or square. For every cube or cylinder correctly placed on the correct corresponding shape, the team earned a point. A round-robin tournament of three-minute rounds, followed by a direct elimination bracket, determined the winner.

Eight teams of undergraduates from a variety of engineering fields spent five months designing, building, and programming their robots. Many of this year’s machines used GPS location tracking borrowed from the HTC VIVE virtual reality system. The feature afforded each robot acute spatial awareness, which made for more directed searches and exciting head-to-head battles.

The top-scoring teams were:

  • 1st place: VeggieButt, with team members Sean Ye, Simon Zhao, and Eric Hao
  • 2nd place: Team Phoenix, with team members Wyatt Cook, Daniel Sours, and Joshua Cohen
  • 3rd place: Sean YAY, with team members Joshua Cho, Avi Bar-Meir, Paulina Robles, and Tom Barnett

A team called “Bananas” received the $500 Myke Minbiole Elegant Engineering Award. The award is named for McCormick alumnus and 2001 Design Competition winner Minbiole, who worked as an engineer before being killed in a hit-and-run collision in 2007. Members of Bananas are Kristen Stuzynski, Jon Chen, Benjamin Lim, and Agnes Wang.