Wayne Robotics Club caps successful year with fourth-place finish in design at IGVC

Members of the Warrior Robotics team with their robot in the lab

Competing among 22 international teams over four 12-hour days, the Wayne Robotics Club (WRC) finished in fourth place in the design component of the 29th Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC), held June 3-6 at Oakland University.

A team of Wayne State University students spanning a wide range of academic disciplines — including computer science, mechanical engineering, industrial and systems engineering, electrical and computer engineering, and robotics — collaborated to develop Aasha, a fully autonomous ground rover with a top speed of five miles per hour and capable of unmanned navigation, obstacle avoidance and mapping.

“I am proud of our entire team of undergraduate and graduate students who have helped improve our position over the years,” said Marco Brocanelli, assistant professor of computer science and one of three faculty advisors for the club, along with Abhilash Pandya, professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Azad Ghaffari, assistant professor of mechanical engineering. “The target is to keep up the good work and win this competition in the near future.”

Reestablished in 2018, eight years after its predecessor went dormant, WRC narrowly qualified for IGVC two years ago and finished in seventh place in 2021. Applying lessons learned from those experiences, the team built Aasha with a lighter frame and more modular design to allow for better maneuverability. Upgrades were also made to the drivetrain design and sensor placements.

Brocanelli said that part of the team’s success can be attributed to an increase in recruitment and retention of students registered for the robotics section of CSC 4996 over the last two semesters. This fall, he and Pandya will open EGR 5990 to allow undergraduates to earn up to four credits (two per semester) for participating in WRC activities.

Pandya also noted the importance of support from the College of Engineering in terms of both funding and space. The team is now headquartered in the Industry Innovation Center on the north end of campus, across the street from TechTown.

“It is slowly starting to pay off — especially seeing many students gain critical hands-on expertise,” said Pandya. “Their resumes have been forwarded to many of the IGVC sponsors, and some are already getting terrific job offers.”

Lloyd Brombach, a computer science student and WRC vice president, echoed that statement. “Employers clearly value these skills as I have been busy since the morning after the competition interviewing with several contacts who reached out to me through the competition organization or at the event itself,” he said. “I would like to extend heartfelt thanks to our deans and chairs for their support, encouragement and the opportunity to work on a project that provides skills that a classroom cannot.”

Brombach is one of the club’s senior members, along with WRC president Nnamdi Monwe, who graduated in May with a B.S. in computer science, and Keena Pandya, the club’s managing director who earned her degree in industrial and systems engineering. They made a concerted effort to pass along their knowledge and experience to ensure returning members are prepared to lead.

“We have a record number of students who stuck with us for the whole year and are eager to return in the fall,” said Brombach. “I am excited to see what the team can do next year with a head start like it has never had before.”

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