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Robot wars

Agricultural engineering students from around the world traveled to New Orleans earlier this year to compete in the 2015 Robotics Design Competition, part of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers annual international meeting.

Tony Grift, associate professor of agricultural engineering at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, who has run the challenge for nine years, said this year’s competition was especially challenging. “Each year we take it up a notch,” said Grift. “There are a lot more teams, and each team has to figure out the best approach using the latest sensors and control technologies.”

In this gallery we describe the conditions of the challenge, which one student notes was a step up from last year’s event.

“Last year’s competition was relatively really simple,” explained Victoria Garibay, a Texas A&M student. “This one has a lot more complexity to it because it encompasses more aspects of automation. In addition to the actual physical picking stuff up or attaching stuff, or taking it around the board, you also need a display of the data collected so that it is actually useful.”

Garibay said there is a variety of different sensors you can use to measure the properties of a plant. “For example, you can have color sensors that determine if a plant is brown, yellow or green; distance sensors that calculate position relative to the wall; or tactile sensors that say ‘I feel something here,’ or ‘This must be a tall plant.’

“We at Texas A&M took a more straightforward design approach by taking a picture and analyzing it according to predetermined algorithms. So we are using image analysis versus independent color and distance sensors to determine the height and color of plants.”

Eleven teams competed in this year’s challenge. Farm Industry News worked with ASABE to provide this event recap. You can read Grift’s review of how the challenges have changed over the years in the November issue of Resource Magazine at


California Polytechnic State University: Charles Ross, Derek Myers, Raul Lopez-Martinez, Luis Vazquez and David Ashton

Clemson University:

TechnoTigers: Thomas Stanton, Yang Song, Reid Miller, Le Liu and adviser Joe Maja

OptimusFarm: Nick Rogers, Adam Blocker, Xin Qiao and advisor, Joe Maja

Kansas State University: Plan A and Plan B: Katie Dhuyvetter, Grant Ferland, captain Justin Frazier, Mohammed Hasan, Sriramana Sankar, Yuqi Song, Harold Vilander, Yong Wei, Tingting Wu and adviser Naiqian Zhang

McGill University: Captain Trevor Stanhope, Bharath Sudarsan, Florian Reumont, Brett Bennett, Sophie Lauzon and supervisor Viacheslav Adamchuk

Texas A&M: Jose Batz, Victoria Garibay, Varun Gejji, Kurt Kremitzki, Walter Oosthuizen and Mario Mendez

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Christopher Guida and Thomas Ramsay

Washington State University: Suraj Amatya, Abhisesh Silwal and Yunxiang Ye

Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China:

Team KoChi: Qifeng Ren, Xiaomin Fang, Jihong Hu, Wenhua Wu and Huangjian Zhu

Team Chao: Jiayun Wang, Yuan Gao, Zhuo Feng, Yushen Zeng, Guhao Sun, Haozheng Jia and Tenghao Lv

Competition organizer: Tony Grift, associate professor, Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Judges: Robert Waggoner, Agco; Emily Carter, U.S. Forest Service, Southern Research Station; Tom Way, USDA Agricultural Research Service National Soil Dynamics Laboratory; Daniel Skelton, Purdue University; Paula Misiewicz, Harper Adams University; and Jodie Wehrspann, Farm Industry News

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