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At this year's Engineering Design Competition, six teams squared off with robot tanks. Get the play by play.
Tank Wars 1
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Robot tanks designed and built by undergraduate students battled one another on Beckman Mall at the 33rd annual ME 72 Engineering Design Competition.
Two tanks
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Students Prepare for the 33rd Annual ME 72 Engineering Design Contest

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Students Prepare for the ME 72 Engineering Design Contest
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Undergraduate students (left to right) Mohar Chatterjee, Caroline Paules, Diandra Almasco, and Hannah Chen—who dubbed their team the "Riveters"—hold one of their robots. It features a cannon that uses throwing wheels (in bright orange) to blast foam balls at their targets—similar to the way an automatic tennis ball machine works. 

ME 72
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

ME 72 students test their robots on an obstacle course, months before the actual competition. The practice course was designed to demonstrate that the robots function and handle as expected. 

Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Mike Mello, lecturer in mechanical and civil engineering, and instructor for ME 72, coaches Team Toast (left to right: Zoey Flynn, Jonah Krop, Claudia Canamas-Donnelly, and Suzanne Oliver) as it prepares to launch two of its tanks at the obstacle course. Each team builds three tanks for the competition. While field testing the tanks on the obstacle course, Mello records the time each team's robot takes to navigate all the obstacles, compiling an overall grade for each tank's mobility.

Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Members of team DA$ ROBOB0BOZ (Peter Renn, Neha Sunil, Filippos Lymperopoulos, and Amarbold Batzorig) try driving their tank at a sharp angle to help it ascend a steep ramp. During the final competition, two teams will field three tanks each per round, battling to control positions located at the top of the ramp, on a 10-foot seesaw, and on a grassy field populated with obstacles.

Prototyping Lab
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Suzanne Oliver and Zoey Flynn, with two of their team's tanks, refine their design at a workstation in the Jim Hall Design and Prototyping Lab in the sub-basement of the Eudora Hull Spalding Laboratory of Engineering. The shop supports several academic courses for the Division of Engineering and Applied Science, and is open to anyone in the Caltech community who has completed ME 13/113, Mechanical Prototyping. 

Guardians of Spalding
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

The Guardians of Spalding (left to right: Ellen Chuan, Qifan (William) Wang, and Leo Balestri—not pictured is team member Urmi Bhaumik) inspect the code that runs the motor controller of one of their tanks. This motor controller is a circuit board that receives instructions from a radio controller and then executes specific lines of code that tell the tank to go forward, backward, slower, or faster, and so on.

Baxter Hall
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Outside of Baxter Hall, Mohar Chatterjee, Caroline Paules, and Diandra Almasco display two iterations of their design. 

Team Floyd
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

A tank from Team Floyd (Dylan Lu, Kana Moriyama, Ishwar Subramanian, and Henry Steiner) charges a box built by the teaching assistants for ME 72. The box has a button that, when pressed by the tank, hoists an arrow indicating that the team has occupied a scoring position. The team that pressed the button then accrues points as long as their arrow is up—which lasts until a tank from an opposing team presses the button again.

Test and tune
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Qifan (William) Wang (left) works with the class's teaching assistants, Yunsang Choi (center) and Julian Thomassie (right), to test and tune the function of one of his team's robots.

Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Cormac O'Neill, of the Ring of Fire team, works on an engine lathe in the Hall Lab. The lathe machines holes and grooves in metal components.

Ring of Fire
Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

The second iteration of the Ring of Fire team's design prepares to take the field. Ring of Fire includes James Deacon, Hana Keller, Cormac O'Neill, and Hyung Ju (Terry) Suh.

Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

DA$ ROBOB0BOZ team members Neha Sunil and Peter Renn operate on the transmission of one of their robots. The transmission transfers power from the motor to the wheels and is a critical component of the tank.

Credit: Bruce Dominguez/Caltech

Jonah Krop and Claudia Canamas-Donnelly of Team Toast mount the drivetrain of one of their tanks to its body.

Tank Wars

The competition takes place on Beckman Mall, beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, March 8, 2018.

The event is free and open to all, with no tickets or reservations required.

To learn more, visit the event webpage at http://www.mce.caltech.edu/events/me72.


Six teams of undergraduate students will face off in ME 72's annual design contest on Thursday, March 8. In the competition, three robots from each team will go head-to-head on Beckman Mall. Each year has a different theme; this year's theme is "Tank Wars."

Here's a peek behind the scenes as the teams prepare for the big day.

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