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Citadel News Service
27 Jul 2016

Intelligent vehicles and concrete canoes lead to real world success

Engineering cadets and students gear up for fall after national and international competitions

Successfully developing innovative products under stressful deadlines for national competitions means Citadel engineering cadets and graduate college students have substantial, real-world experience as they head into the workforce or back to campus for the 2016-17 academic year. The summer competitions led to strong finishes, but more importantly, provided a year’s worth of development, design and project management experiences that the students can now apply to their professional ventures.

Meet PabloBOT

A team of five electrical engineering students from The Citadel Graduate College’s evening undergraduate program competedPabloBOT against 35 teams from as far away as Egypt and India at the 2016 Intelligent Ground Vehicle Contest (IGVC). The four day event was held at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. JH (Candy) Colinco, Chris Martin, and Zachary Smith worked for months, along with their classmates Mathew Claeys and Richard Graf, and three evening undergraduate mechanical engineering students, to create the intelligent vehicle they named PabloBOT. They worked, and learned under the guidance of Jason Skinner, Ph.D., a professor in The Citadel Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“The Intelligent Ground Vehicle Contest offers a real-world experience that in this case culminated after two semesters of designing and constructing a machine that incorporates cutting-edge electrical engineering innovations,” said Skinner.

The IGVC is “multidisciplinary, theory-based, hands-on, team implemented, outcome assessed, and based on product realization. It encompasses the very latest technologies impacting industrial development and taps subjects of high interest to students,” according to the event website.

After graduating with Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering degrees in May, Colinco, Martin and Smith traveled together several weeks later to the competitions in Michigan.

“The Citadel electrical engineering students learned and applied technology being used in numerous industries including intelligent transportation systems and manufacturing, as well as military mobility,” said Robert Barsanti Jr., Ph.D., head of The Citadel Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

“From troubleshooting automation systems to developing an algorithm to determine robot velocity, the PabloBOT project provided instrumental learning opportunities.”

Barsanti said the technology used in PabloBOT, such as GPS based waypoint navigation is used military mobility applications Citadel Electrical Engineering Graduatesfor activities such as:

  • Mine detection
  • Mobile robots path exploration
  • Platooning
  • Surveillance systems
  • Unmanned weapons deployment

In the navigation challenge PabloBOT had to overcome rain, high winds, high grass and hilly terrain and was one of only nine vehicles that completed the qualification course. (Photo: Left to right -Smith, Martin and Colinco at the IGVC)

“We incorporated hardware elements that included laser targeting to measure distances, and image sourcing to enhance obstacle avoidance,” said Colinco. “The software involved programming languages that enabled us to command, instruct, maneuver and control the motor and mobility. PabloBOT encompassed so much of what we wanted to learn. It was an important and fun experience.”

The 2016 graduates are working in positions this fall related to their degrees. Colinco is an electrical engineering intern at Mercedes Benz Vans in Ladson. Martin is continuing as an electrician at Mount Pleasant Waterworks, and Smith is working with Liberty Business Associates, a digital forensics and technology consulting firm in Charleston.

“The Force” of floating concrete

One of the most engaged organizations on The Citadel campus is the student chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). Every year, cadets and students in the group spend two semesters designing, building and testing Citadel Concrete Canoeconcrete canoes to use in competitions with other institutions.

“The annual ASCE concrete canoe competitions offer an experiential learning opportunity, providing students with a unique outlet for engineering creativity and innovation,” said Mary Katherine Watson, Ph.D., civil and environmental engineering professor and chapter advisor. “Through a process involving more than 2000 collective hours of work, the students apply civil and environmental engineering theories to a tangible product while sharpening leadership, teamwork and project management skills.”

After placing first in the regional competition at the Carolinas Conference with their Star Wars themed canoe named “The Force” in April, the team qualified for the 2016 Concrete Canoe National Competition. It was only the second time The Citadel has had a designed that made it to the top tier.

The fourteen men and women commanding “The Force” traveled to the University of Texas at Tyler to put their talents and design to the test. "The Force" was among only 21 teams out of 200 across the nation that qualified to compete. Races are also a part of the competition, and include endurance trials and sprints. The team finished ninth in the Final Product category and fourteenth overall. Many of the cadets and students will return to campus to complete their degrees this fall.

Citadel engineering graduates are leaders in their field across the Lowcountry and the nation, with 100 percent of the college’s engineering graduates employed before or within two months of receiving their degrees. The Citadel School of Engineering is the fifth oldest in the U.S., and is consistently ranked among the top 25 undergraduate engineering programs in the nation for institutions where the highest degree is a master’s degree.

The Citadel School of Engineering offers Engineering Master of Science degrees in civil, electrical and mechanical engineering as well as project management. The Master of Science in Project Management program is one of fewer than 30 the nation accredited by the Project Management Institute Global Accrediting Center. There are 13 engineering graduate certificates from which to choose and undergraduate degrees in mechanical, civil and electrical engineering available to members of the South Carolina Corps of Cadets, or to non-cadet students through the Evening Undergraduate Studies program.

Engineering clubs at The Citadel include:

  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE)
  • American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME)
  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
  • National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE)
  • Society of American Military Engineers (SAME)
  • Society of Women Engineers (SWE)
  • Tau Beta Pi (Honor Society)

citadel testing concrete canoe

(Photo: The Citadel’s ASCE student chapter swamp tests “The Force” in the national competition)

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Media Contact:
Kim Keelor-Parker
(843) 953-2155




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