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SU students take second place in robotic lawnmower competition

June 18, 2012

Ariel DuChene
(315) 443-2546

A team of four Syracuse University students took second place in the static competition at the ninth annual ION Robotic Lawnmower Competition in Beavercreek, Ohio. The SU team spent $37,000 less on its design than the winning team.

sumoAndrew Cash, Chris Budwey, David Perra and Minghao Ruan created the Autonomous Lawnmower as a part of their senior design project in the L.C. Smith College of Engineering and Computer Science. The aim of the competition, which took place May 31-June 2, was to determine which team could successfully cut the most lawn while avoiding obstacles and staying within boundaries. The team’s prize is $1,500, which will be split between the four members.

The Syracuse University mower (SUMo) is a self-contained, unmanned, autonomous lawnmower that uses various onboard sensors and cameras to navigate a predefined mowing region. The SUMo was significantly less expensive than the Laser Imaging Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) systems and directional GPS used by the 10 other teams. Parts on the SUMo were less than $3,000, while the next cheapest contest entry was over $10,000 and the most expensive over $50,000.

“We are very proud of the fact that we were able to compete with these much more expensive mowers, and with groups that have had past experience,” says Cash.

In addition to second place in the static competition, the team received two “gag” awards. One was for the zero-turn radius, a product of the four-wheel drive system on its mower. The second was for the appearance of its mower, which Cash described as “a heavily modified PC.”

California State University, Fullerton won first place in the static competition.

“We lost to a team that used directional GPS and LIDAR systems, which had a cost of over $40,000 and three years of experience,” says Cash. “So, there was no shame in losing to them.”

The goal of the SUMo is to provide an affordable autonomous lawn mowing system to the consumer realm, specifically targeting people with disabilities, the elderly and those who have a need. The SUMo is currently designed for static obstacle avoidance, but maintains the complexity for more challenging tasks. The team of electrical engineers hopes that a new team will take on the project next year and refine what they have accomplished.

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