Robots roll out on campus


Members of the SDSU Robotics Club demonstrate their products during an open house.


A small group of robots scurried around the electrical and computer science building on April 13 when the SDSU Robotics Club hosted an open house to showcase their projects and talk to potential members about the organization.

“Robotics is a multi-disciplinary technology,” said Dr. Wei Wang, assistant professor at the electrical engineering and computer science department and faculty adviser for the Robotics Club. “It’s the perfect extracurricular activity to join students from all kinds of backgrounds.”

The open house was held to announce that the Robotics Club is open to SDSU students who are interested in robotics and engineering who want to challenge themselves, said Wang.

“The Robotics Club helps retain and recruit engineering students,” Wang said. “It provides us a tangible hands-on tool to make engineering interesting and fun.”

After introductions of club members, the Robotics Club demonstrated their work as several robots spelled out SDSU on the floor to synchronized music played by another robot. Afterward, members answered questions about the robots and shared information about the club.

In their final year as electrical engineering students, Austin Hanson and Tyler Wulf founded the club in the fall of 2009 as a senior design project.

“Our senior design won the competition division of the Engineering Expo,” said Wulf, now a graduate student in electrical engineering. “This was a big deal for the electrical engineering department because they never had a senior design group be in the competition division.”

Financial support for the club started solely from the South Dakota Space Grant Consortium which stemmed from excess funds from the senior design project, said Hanson, now a graduate student in computer science. Recently the club has also received money from the College of Engineering.

The Space Grant Consortium that supports the club acts as a link between NASA and South Dakota schools.

NASA is interested in talented scientists and researchers, said Kevin Dalsted, associate director of the SDSGC.

Many of the robots used by the club were bought with the financial support of the consortium, said Dalsted.

“NASA has a very strong interest in a lot of different aspects of robots for primarily extraterrestrial activities,” Dalsted said.

Hanson said the robotics club would like to involve mechanical engineers, electrical engineers and programmers in the next couple of years as well as hosting its own competitions within SDSU.

A long-term goal is to bring recognition to the school and use the club to help out the university as a whole, said Wulf

“The Robotics Club is here to serve the students,” Wang said, “to provide a unique hands-on environment so students can apply their engineering knowledge in the real world.”