iRobotics gears up for the school year

ECE News


Story Highlights

  • iRobotics, which is sponsored by ECE ILLINOIS' annual fund, other Illinois departments and organizations, and several businesses, is preparing for the new year.
  • The student organization competes in three competitions in the spring: the AMD Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition, Vex U, and Battling Robots.
  • iRobotics members inspire young students to become engineers through their outreach efforts.

The fall semester is quickly approaching, and iRobotics teams are gearing up for the three robotics competitions in which they compete. In order to be competitive for these spring competitions, the teams go to work early in the fall, and some have already started their plans this summer.

Donations given to the ECE ILLINOIS annual fund help support iRobotics. Other sponsors include businesses and other Illinois departments and organizations. The funding from these sources makes possible this space for Illinois students to practice their engineering skills, as well as innovation, creativity, and teamwork.

Ryan Shulski, captain of the Combots division of iRobotics, prepares 'Proton Shaker' for combat.
Ryan Shulski, captain of the Combots division of iRobotics, prepares 'Proton Shaker' for combat.

iRobotics’ earliest competition in the year is the annual AMD Jerry Sanders Creative Design Competition (JSDC), hosted at Illinois and featuring engineering students from around the nation, which takes place during Engineering Open House (EOH).

“This is one competition we have always taken part in since our establishment,” said Ahmed Sulaiman, president of iRobotics and rising senior studying computer engineering. “For the past four years, an iRobotics team has emerged as the top Illinois team in the competition.”

Indeed, in the 2014 JSDC competition, both the iRobotics senior and junior teams – the Midterminators and Brobots, respectively – performed exceptionally. The Midterminators earned the second-highest score of the competition and finished second overall in the elimination rounds. The Brobots reached the quarterfinals, where they were only stopped by the two robots that reached the finals, in a very close encounter.

Sulaiman, who is captain of the now-senior team Brobots, is confident the team can improve for next spring, its final run at the competition. That means doing all of the work the team can do before the competition details are announced late in the fall, and Sulaiman said that some team members were already given tasks to test out different micro-controllers during the summer.

“One of the main things I am driving for this year is to finish up our drive-train testing and communication protocol testing before the announcement of the game,” he said. “I believe if we stick to our plans and prepare well before the announcement, we should be able to devote more time to build and test in the spring.”

The iRobotics JSDC freshman and sophomore (now sophomore and junior) teams, too, designed intricate and creative robots this past spring and overcame some significant hurdles, and are ready to apply their new knowledge toward preparation for the 2015 competition.

The other competitions included on iRobotics’ schedule are Vex U, in which the iRobotics Cyber Chiefs compete, and Battling Robots, in which the iRobotics Combots division of teams compete. These teams also compete in the spring, and so will begin designing their robots in the fall, as well.

“The Combots division of iRobotics has a special surprise coming up for engineering students during EOH, which they are preparing for in the fall. Stay tuned!” Sulaiman said.

Sulaiman and iRobotics run a Lego Robotics workshop for students at Yankee Ridge Elementary School.
Sulaiman and iRobotics run a Lego Robotics workshop for students at Yankee Ridge Elementary School.

The organization’s love for robotics and engineering doesn’t stop with these competitions. Through their outreach activities, iRobotics members inspire younger students to pursue their engineering passions. This summer, they held a presentation and demo for campers in the computer science track at G.A.M.E.S. In the fall, they have a slew of activities that they do each year.

“During the school year, we hold many STEM activities at local elementary and middle schools, run workshops and practice tournaments for First Lego League, and host Family Engineering Nights.” said Arsalan Aslam, public relations director of iRobotics.

Some of their outreach activities have been featured in a story on the I-STEM website. Through these activities, iRobotics members hope to use the fun of robotics to show young people what they can accomplish with skills in science and engineering.

Students who are interested in joining iRobotics can visit the organization’s website. iRobotics will be represented at Quad Day (Aug. 24), ECE Ignition (Aug. 25), and E-Night (Aug. 27).

Media Contact

Julia Sullivan

Assistant Director of Communications
1064 ECE Building
(217) 300-3731

Todd Sweet

Director of Communications
1066 ECE Building
(217) 333-5943