Students participate in Autonomous Snowplow Competition

February 20, 2012


Building a snowplow robot is a lot harder than it looks.

Just ask UM-Dearborn student Taoran Yan.

“It requires both theoretical knowledge and practical experience to make the design fit the requirements of this competition,” she said.

Yan, an international student from China, can speak from experience after she and other UM-Dearborn students recently participated in the Autonomous Snowplow Competition in St. Paul, Minn.

The competition, sponsored by Institution of Navigation (ION) Satellite Division, challenges college students to design and operate a fully autonomous snowplow to work on a designated path.

“I am very proud of taking part in the competition because it provided me a valuable opportunity to work on a project from scratch,” said Yan, who is studying electrical engineering.

Nattu Natarajan joined UM-Dearborn students at this year’s competition and advised them throughout the process.

“They learned things that they never learn in the classroom,” said Natarajan, UM-Dearborn associate professor of electrical and computer engineering. “There’s a different type of learning taking place. They started acting like engineers, not students.”

UM-Dearborn sent two teams to the competition – Yeti 2.0 and Geili, comprised of multiple international students from China. Yeti 2.0 took third place and won $1,000, while Geili placed fourth.

 “They can now compete with the best of the best,” Natarajan said. “They can be very proud of themselves. Everything they did was from scratch. I’m really proud of them.”

UM-Dearborn student Doris Kotori helped lead Yeti 2.0 to a strong finish and also learned a lot about programming.

“It was a great experience,” Kotori said. “That was pretty much a perfect project.”
Yan agreed.

“I have not only enjoyed the happiness of the big festival, but also accumulated knowledge and eye-opening experiences during the competition,” Yan said. “It encourages me to keep working on the next task and develop my potential in the near future.”

UM-Dearborn’s Intelligent Systems Club sponsored the students’ trip to Minnesota.

Here’s a list of UM-Dearborn students who competed in the competition:
Geili: Xi Xie, Yuezhang Zhou, Taoran Yan, Yumeng Wang and Jia Huang
Yeti 2.0: Zach DeGeorge, Angelo Bertani, Doris Kotori, Alf Williams and Mark Lawrence. Benjamin Craig and Jhonatan Ferrer served as student advisors for both teams.

Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, University of Michigan-Dearborn is a metropolitan university serving southeastern Michigan, committed to excellence rooted in strong academics, innovative research and programming and civic engagement. The University has nearly 8,900 students pursuing more than 90 bachelor's, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business and education.  A top-ranked university with a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of partnering with local leaders and communities, and is committed to finding solutions for the challenges that face the region.