Montini Catholic robotics students brought home the 2nd Place titles in two categories at the Argonne Autonomous Vehicle Competition at the Museum of Science and Industry (held on Sunday, April 8th).
The Argonne Autonomous Vehicle Competition is structured and modeled after the engineering design cycle that Argonne engineers and scientists practice - from submitting a project proposal to documenting progress to presenting final product. The prestigious competition consisted of both preliminary and day-of phases. Teams were judged on their engineering design process, vehicle design and performance. Montini's Technology Director and Robotics Instructor, Mr. Pete Farina, and his students were pumped for the competition and were thrilled with their team's performance."Only fifteen high schools received the opportunity to compete in this competition," said Farina. "We were very excited to be included for the first time this year!"
The challenge was to design, build, and program an autonomous vehicle that could safely carry a 3D printed passenger around a course with three weather challenges. Vehicles faced rain, heat, and wind obstacles while making their way around the course. Teams were also tasked with writing a lengthy project proposal for their vehicle. "In it they had to choose all of the components and design elements while staying within a $150 budget," explained Farina. (Proposals were due on December 15th, 2017.) Once the project was approved, Argonne bought all the necessary components and shipped them to Farina and team in January.
"Our team has been working non-stop since January designing, building, and testing our vehicle. They put in several 5-hour build sessions and literally dozens of shorter after-school work sessions." said Farina. "Max (Kramer) and Al (Walsh) used 3D design software to design and print body panels and other components for the vehicle. Diego (Trimarco) and Ray (Zimmerman) developed the code that runs our vehicle and keeps it on track. Abby (Wolf) and Jake (Mondschean) worked on construction, documentation and testing.
The students had to also submit a Design Journal describing all of their work and containing final measurements and code for the vehicle on March 23rd. "The team really did an awesome job planning, designing, building, and testing our vehicle. We have all learned a ton from the different phases of this challenge and we were confident we had a sturdy and reliable vehicle that would perform well at the competition," said Farina. "The teamwork, dedication, and collaboration that these six students have demonstrated over the last few months has been truly outstanding. No matter what happened at the competition I was already very proud of our team and the work they had done."
The competition was open to the public at the Museum of Science of Industry. First off, the Montini vehicle had to first pass inspection, to make sure the team only used approved components and that the vehicle meets all the rules and requirements. The team was then interviewed about their design and building process with specific questions about the functioning of vehicle. Next, the team had to give a presentation to the judges introducing their team and vehicle. Each team was granted one test run on the competition course and had a short time to make adjustments before making their one and only official run. The vehicles were scored on speed, safety for the 'passenger' and several other measures.
"This year there were two different categories, a Design Category and a Performance Category," explained Farina. " We won the second place trophy in each one!"
The Design Trophy was based on the Design Journal the students had to submit as well as a series of five lengthy interviews. Each interview session was led by a different Argonne engineer or scientist.
The Performance Trophy was based on the team's vehicle's performance on the challenge course. "Our students did a fantastic job on this," said Farina. "Today was a great way to cap off this four-and-a-half month long project! The students and I put in a ton of work and it's really gratifying to have two trophies to show for it!"
Montini's team members at Argonne were: Abby Wolf, Diego Trimarco, Jake Mondschean, Ray Zimmerman, Al Walsh, and Max Kramer. Each member will receive two medals for their efforts and the school will be proudly displaying the two trophies received. The trophies will be displayed alongside the second place trophy won earlier this year at Montini's third trip to the College of DuPage Engineering Olympics (on February 9, 2018). So far the Bronco's record at COD's Olympics is 1st, 5th, and 2nd Place.
"Our entire team was very excited to go to Argonne and showcase the product of several months and many hours of work," said team member Jake Mondschean. "It's was a really unique experience since this is the first time Montini has participated in a competition like this one."
"Working with everyone has made the building process so much simpler, and our personalities meshed well as a whole," Jake enthusiastically added. "Having Mr. Farina's guidance has proved to be incredibly valuable and his experience has gotten us over a number of hurdles along the way." More than anything else, however, Jake hopes that the competition provides Montini's Robotics program with the recognition it deserves. "The results of this competition are sure to give the program credit for the incredible skills that it teaches to all Montini robotics students!"
"It was amazing to be able to participate at Argonne this year," said team member Alex Walsh. "I was very excited to compete and to see how our robot preformed!" Alex was also interested to view other schools' designs and see how their vehicles were made. Prior to the competition, Walsh was asked about his expectations of the event. "I hope to take away new idea of the weather and its effects on cars and a new appreciation for modern automobile makers!"