Electrical engineering majors win first place in robotic lawn mower competition


By Tyler White

Staff Writer

A group of UNF electrical engineering students beat six competing universities to win first-place at the 7th annual Robotic Lawn mower Competition.

The competition, held June 3 through June 5 in Beavercreek, Ohio, acts as an opportunity for college students to test their ability to design and operate a robotic unmanned lawn mower using technology to direct the lawn mower. This was UNF’s first time participating in the competition and received a $2,000 first-time entry grant and will help with the group’s travel fund.

The team of UNF students included seniors Pedro Sierra-Barrita, Rasem Mourad, Anna Nguyen, Ganna Kudrey Lewis and Pedro Duarte. Kevin Anderson, a UNF alumnus, acted as an alumni advisor. Assistant Professor Dr. Alan Harris acted as the team’s faculty advisor.

The group met once a week from August 2009 up until the competition in June 2010 to work on creating the autonomous lawn mower. The team decided to work on the lawn mower for their Senior Design project after Nguyen found out about the competition online.

“I figured that robotics would be something that’s interesting to me and would benefit the rest of the team members,” Nguyen said.

The group was happy that they were able to win the competition on their first attempt.

“I think we [were] probably considered the underdogs,” Sierra-Barrita said. “We never competed before [and] our budget was lower than most other universities that were participating that have been doing it for more than one year.”

The group’s lawn mower, named “The Green Reaper,” includes a variety of different technologies to make it work. The lawn mower includes a sensing module, line detection programming, wheels and a digital compass for orientation. The mower’s uses DC batteries for power and the base of the lawnmower is a Black and Decker cordless lawn mower.

Harris commended the group for their dedication to making sure the lawn mower was completed and worked well.

“I think they did a really good job when they went up there,” Harris said. “They worked really hard up there to adjust to the different conditions being a completely different environment than Florida and really came together and did a really good job.”

Harris plans to continue the school’s involvement in the competition through upcoming courses and programs through the engineering department. Harris also hopes to grab some corporate sponsorship for future endeavors with the next year’s team.