Announcing the 2015 ASME Student Mechanism and Robot Design Competition

3 Min Read
Announcing the 2015 ASME Student Mechanism and Robot Design Competition

A group of undergraduate and graduate college students will have their chance to show off their skills in robotics, mechatronics, and design in the annual Student Mechanism and Robot Design Competition held by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) next month.

“Effectively, this competition and some parallel ones we run with it are really trying to get the next generation interested [in engineering] and in many cases give a forum for visibility for students who are maybe working on things locally to present in a bigger context,” said Jeff Rhoads, chair of the conference and an associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.

Students participating in the competition also can network with companies, universities, and other organizations at the conference, potentially providing them with career opportunities and future projects to work on, he said.

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Those who make it past a qualification round will compete in the finals at the 2015 ASME International Design Engineering Technical Conferences in Boston Aug. 2-5. Conference attendees will recognize competition winners at the annual Mechanisms and Robotics Luncheon at IDETC 2015, where they will be awarded cash and software prizes for their work.


The contest has separate categories for undergraduate and graduate designs, as well as separate categories under each of those for “robotics” and “mechanisms” designs.

The scope of what defines “mechanism” and “robot” in the competition is quite broad. The former is defined as “any devices that transmits a force or a motion to perform a mechanical task,” according to the competition website. It may have a rigid or deformable body connected with kinematic or flexural joints, and any type of material—including smart or other materials—can be used in its construction. The device size also gives competitors a range of options, from the nano-scale to the macro-scale.

A robot designed for the challenge can be “an electro-mechanical system which, by its appearance or movements, conveys a sense that it has intent or agency of its own,” according to the website. It should have some or all of the following functionality: the ability to move around; operate a mechanical linkage; sense and manipulate their environment; and exhibit intelligent behavior, such as behavior that mimics humans or other animals. Like the mechanism category, the size also can range from the nano-scale to macro-scale.

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Judging will be done by a panel of world-class experts in mechanism design from academia and industry, who will decide competition winners based on creativity, practicality, integrity of analysis and design methodology, as well as the quality of the fabricated prototype and a final report.

Winning designs from last year’s contest include a range of devices and robots including origami-inspired forceps, an autonomous 20g micro aerial vehicle, and a biomimetic robotic fish powered by hydraulic actuation.

Rhoads said students who have won the competition in the past have seen a fair amount of success in their careers thanks to the exposure they received. Aaron Dollar, a first-place winner in 2006, for example, is now a professor at Yale University and a thought leader in the development of robotic hands.

More information about the competition and the ASME conference can be found on their respective websites.

Elizabeth Montalbano is a freelance writer who has written about technology and culture for more than 15 years. She has lived and worked as a professional journalist in Phoenix, San Francisco and New York City. In her free time she enjoys surfing, traveling, music, yoga and cooking. She currently resides in a village on the southwest coast of Portugal.

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth Montalbano

Elizabeth Montalbano has been a professional journalist covering the telecommunications, technology and business sectors since 1998. Prior to her work at Design News, she has previously written news, features and opinion articles for Phone+, CRN (now ChannelWeb), the IDG News Service, Informationweek and CNNMoney, among other publications. Born and raised in Philadelphia, she also has lived and worked in Phoenix, Arizona; San Francisco and New York City. She currently resides in Lagos, Portugal. Montalbano has a bachelor's degree in English/Communications from De Sales University and a master's degree from Arizona State University in creative writing.

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