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Penn College Students’ Autonomous Robotic Vehicle Earns Honors


Ajaiah T. Connelly, of Williamsport, left, and Nicholas R. Fantaske, of State College, both seniors in the electronics engineering technology major, display their autonomous robotic vehicle.An autonomous robotic vehicle designed by two Pennsylvania College of Technology students earned second place at a student competition at the University of Cincinnati and was accepted to a student-design competition at Rochester Institute of Technology.

The robotic vehicle, created as a senior project by Ajaiah T. Connelly, of Williamsport, and Nicholas R. Fantaske, of State College, is designed to follow a person at a predefined distance while carrying a load. Senior projects are a requirement for a bachelor’s degree in the electronics and computer engineering technology department.

To enable the vehicle to find its way, the user carries a token that emits infrared light while a panel of infrared sensors on the vehicle determine which direction it should move. The vehicle also includes ultrasonic sensors to prevent it from getting too close to an object or the person it follows. Each of these functions, as well as the vehicle’s frame, power and locomotion, were designed and programmed or built by the students.

Because of their timely success in meeting their original project proposal, the team added an option to control the vehicle by remote control instead of using its “follow” mode.

While its uses are many, one of Connelly’s initial visions for the project was as an aid for elderly completing such tasks as lawn work. While the user simply carried the token, the vehicle would follow, carrying heavy or unwieldy garden supplies.

With the addition of radio-frequency remote control, in addition to following its user, the robotic vehicle could deliver a load in situations a person would not want to encounter, such as those involving hazardous areas.

“Since we designed it from the bottom up, we can add anything to it with relative ease,” Fantaske said. The prototype can be customized for a wide range of home, commercial or military uses.

At the University of Cincinnati, the two students competed as part of the 2007 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Region 2 Student Activities Conference. The event, held April 13-15, included several competitions for members of IEEE student chapters in Pennsylvania; Ohio; West Virginia; Maryland; Washington, D.C.; Delaware; and New Jersey.

Connelly and Fantaske were among six teams competing in the project showcase. Winners were chosen by popular vote among all students attending the conference.

The students traveled to the Rochester Institute of Technology IEEE chapter’s Seventh Annual Student Design Contest on May 5 and competed against revered engineering schools for part of $11,500 in prizes. Forty-two teams from IEEE student chapters across the United States and Canada applied to participate, but only 20 were accepted.

For the competition, the students prepared a 15-minute multimedia presentation for the contest judges university professors and industrial affiliates and set up a booth where they offered demonstrations.

Connelly is set to finish his studies and graduate later this month, and Fantaske plans to earn his degree in December.

More details about the autobot project and other project portfolios engineered by seniors in the electronics and computer engineering technology bachelor-degree program can be accessed on the Web .

For more information about the academic programs offered by the School of Industrial and Engineering Technologies at Penn College, call (570) 327-4520, e-mail or visit online .

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