A miniature autonomous vehicle four UWindsor students built in less than six hours took first-place honours in a provincial engineering design competition.
Third-year engineering students Peter Doris (general mechanical), Lukasz Pach (civil), Tristin Gumiela (automotive) and Ben Levine (industrial) won the senior design category at the Ontario Engineering Competition held January 27 to 29 in Ottawa for creating a miniature autonomous snow plow that cleared a road, stayed in its lane and avoided parked cars.
The team secured a spot in the provincial undergraduate competition after winning UWindsor’s internal engineering competition in November. The students will represent Ontario at the Canadian Engineering Competition in March at the University of Calgary.
“It’s surreal,” Levine said about placing first out of 18 universities. “You have to be very creative and really think outside the box. Since part of the competition is about having the lowest design cost, it also makes you think about using material in unique ways because typically the materials that are the most useful are the most expensive.”
Each team was provided with a microcontroller kit, motor shield and sensors. Students could request additional materials to add to their fully autonomous prototype, however, the more materials they added, the fewer points they received. This encouraged teams to create a cost-effective prototype.
The snow plow was graded on design and performance on a course littered with “snow” — Ping Pong balls. Students then had to present and field questions from a panel of industry professionals.
“This competition simulates a real-life experience of getting a problem and having to solve it in a unique and ingenious way with materials that you’re given rather than materials you theoretically have access to,” Levine said.
Team members will receive a monetary award as well as the chance to join the national competition. Established in 1985, and hosted yearly at a constituent university, the Canadian Engineering Competition will bring together 150 engineering undergraduate students from across the nation to compete in one of six categories, ranging from design, consulting, presentation and debate.