Here Come the (Snow-Fighting) Robots
As Minnesotans brace for another round of snowfall this weekend, a group of enterprising college students is preparing for the 10th annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition.
On Saturday, ten teams from seven universities in snowy locales will converge on the Dunwoody College of Technology campus to show off their snow-plowing robots. It’s the first time the event is being held on Dunwoody’s campus.
The robots are tasked with plowing snow with “no direct human control.” There are two rounds: First, the teams’ machines must plow a single “I”-shaped path on a Dunwoody parking lot. Then, the robots must plow two parallel paths. Judges will evaluate how each machine performed and select winners, who will receive a share of prize money to further develop their technology.
Dunwoody has three teams in the competition this year. They’ll face off against teams from the University of Minnesota, North Dakota State University, University of Michigan, Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, Lake Area Technical Institute in South Dakota, and Quebec’s Laval University.
Dunwoody College student Hannah McCarthy, who participated in last year’s competition in Toronto, says her team has been working on their robot since September. This year, she says the team added a “wobble stick limit switch,” which tells the robot when to turn and when to back up. McCarthy is in her final semester for her associate's degree in automated systems and robotics.
The teams are permitted to use a range of “navigation-aiding systems” around the snow fields to help plow, according to the competition’s rulebook.
The annual event is held by the nonprofit Institute of Navigation Inc. Saturday’s event, which kicks off at 8 a.m., is free and open to the public.