Caltech engineering students build obstacle course crushing robots

PASADENA, Calif. (KABC) -- Some of the brightest young minds at the California Institute of Technology took part Thursday in one of the most stressful classroom assignments they've ever had.

Mechanical engineering students designed and built robots to go over what looks like a simple obstacle course: One robot finds its way through a maze of tubes and then hands off a ball to another robot, then that robot goes over a teeter totter, eventually reaching the finish line.

After hours of design work in the classroom, this is their final exam.

For more than 30 years mechanical engineering students at Caltech have been challenged to build robots for an annual race.

"The result is months and months of concentrated design and reliability testing which may pay out on some days and then, at the worse possible moment, things can go wrong which is the most valuable lesson as young engineers that they can learn," Said Caltech professor Dr. Michael Mello.

But the most important lesson learned in this competition is teamwork.

"We kind of figured out which team member works with what role. Mayra is good with electronics, I'm the master at tightening things and Eduardo is our logistics person so it's kind of worked out," said student Allison Penn.

The victors snag a gear shaft trophy and bragging rights. The biggest prize, however, is a passing grade for everyone who completes the assignment.
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