This spring, an electro-mechanical clan composed of four robots-R. M. S. Dick Roslund, Fenrir, Penguin, and Reaper-went wheel-to-wheel against a bevy of other fantastical devices at one of the nation's oldest continuing robotics contests, the Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition (JSDC). For members of Illinois Tech Robotics, the notion of robots combating as twenty-first-century Roman gladiators is where steel meets classroom science, head on.
"The robot is designed to pneumatically jump five feet into the air and from platform to platform," says Adin Goings (MMAE 3rd year), the club's vice president of engineering, who also has his hands deep inside another creation. "I'm currently involved in the design and construction of Mongol, a servo-actuated [ability to provide mechanical control at a distance] robot that will compete in Robogames next year."
Besides building competitive 'bots-such as Roslund, which took first place in the 2010 and 2011 JSDC, and fourth place this year-Illinois Tech Robotics members volunteer as mentors for FIRST, a national nonprofit organization devoted to helping students ages 6–18 discover and develop a passion for STEM disciplines. Founded by Segway inventor Dean Kamen, FIRST offers a series of robot construction/performance competitions featuring simple LEGO assemblies to advanced kit robots weighing up to 150 pounds.
Robotics club members also coach charter-school students from the Perspectives/IIT Math & Science Academy as they prepare to enter FIRST competitions. IIT's Idea Shop at University Technology Park has been a valuable source of prototyping equipment and other tools needed for building and testing robots.