“NAI” – its name originates from the acronym, Northern Autonomous Intelligence – is a 145-pound ground robot designed to navigate through a series of objective-based challenges.
In March, students from universities nationwide competed in the two-day event at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
Sponsored by Advanced Micro Devices, it’s the oldest continuing robotics competition in America. Last year, NIU Robotics designed and built the first successful flying robot in the history of the competition.
“Teams spend close to a year engineering robots to compete in objective-based challenges,” said mechanical engineering major Kevin McNary, president of the NIU Robotics Club.
“This year’s challenge included picking up flexible cones and soccer balls within a 50-foot-long course,” McNary added. “After spending hours debugging and programming the robot, the competition finally arrived. NAI was tested in the pit area and worked beautifully.”
NAI is equipped with an intelligence program that allows separate control systems to talk with each other and coordinate tasks. The robot is controlled by a foam controller consisting of two buttons marked “Start” and “Kill.”
“NAI uses a front facing camera and laser optical sensors to track the position of the cones on the ground. The arm design of NAI is fully controllable with a feedback system,” McNary said.
The club also updated last year’s robot, named QUIN 2.0. QUIN’s name originated from “NIU Quad copter” spelled backward. QUIN eliminated two teams and advanced to the quarterfinal.
The goal of the event is to promote engineering disciplines and offer students a chance to creatively demonstrate their technical abilities. The design competition presents a well-rounded multi-disciplinary engineering challenge to future engineers.
“In just two years, NIU Robotics has grown to become a serious competitor at Jerry Sanders,” McNary said, “and plans to continue to be the most innovative robotics team in Illinois.”
“This group not only works hard all semester, but they take time to nurture and mentor high school students interested in robotics,” Ghrayeb said. “They are great ambassadors for the college.” Ghrayeb said.