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Citadel News Service
14 Jun 2011

Engineering team wins robotics contest's Rookie of the Year

Being a rookie has its ups and down, but for a group of engineering students, it’s quite a fete.

The Citadel’s Team CLETIS recently stunned an international robotics competition by taking the Rookie of the Year award. The students took part in the 19th annual Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition held June 3-6 at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. The competition is an opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students from around the world to design and build an autonomous ground vehicle capable of completing several difficult challenges.

Matthew Player, Kendall Nowocin, and Nathan Lett of Team CLETIS work on their robot at the Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition. Not pictured is team member Luke McBee.

“Twenty one of the 57 entries from the U.S., Canada, Japan and Europe qualified to compete, of which at least 5 had rookie status. Rookie status is determined by past qualification, so some of the other rookie' had tried before but this was their first year to qualify,” said John Peeples, head of the electrical and computer engineering department in The Citadel School of Engineering. “Team CLETIS was a true rookie team, this being the first year the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering participated.”

In addition to Rookie of the Year status, Team CLETIS is waiting to hear how the team finished overall in the competition. Team members were Kendall Nowocin of Dorchester, Nathan Lett of Charleston, Matt Player of Summerville, and Luke McBee of Mount Pleasant. All four graduated from The Citadel Graduate College's Evening Undergraduate Studies program in May.

The Citadel competed against the likes of Georgia Tech, Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. Naval Academy, Rutgers University, University of Texas and Virginia Tech. Sponsors included several Department of Defense agencies, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics Land Systems and Joint Ground Robotics Enterprise.

The robot, named CLETIS for Citadel Engineered Traversing Intelligent System, is an autonomous navigation robot. It had to traverse a hilly grassland course spread over an area the size of a football field while making navigational decisions based solely on input from its surroundings. The robot had to navigate the course with no human guidance, while staying in marked lanes and avoiding obstacles.

“These students have spent many long hours and late nights designing, building and programming this amazing robot,” said Mark McKinney, the team’s faculty advisor. “They went toe-to-toe with some outstanding engineering programs, many with years of experience in this particular competition, and once again proved that The Citadel has some of the best electrical engineering students in the nation.”

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