U of M students present largest robot show in Twin Cities

Students learn real-world engineering lessons

MINNEAPOLIS / ST. PAUL (12/08/2017) — A self-balancing robot, a knot tyer, a clothes folder, an automated clutch, and a candy sorter will be among more than 200 machines on display at the University of Minnesota Robot Show 2:40-4:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11, in the McNamara Alumni Center, 200 Oak St. S.E., Minneapolis.

The walk-through show is the largest collection of robots assembled in one place in the Twin Cities. The event is free and open to the public and is suitable for all ages.

The show is the culmination of seven weeks of work for University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering students in the Introduction to Engineering class who created computer-controlled machines that “do something interesting and useful.” Students received a small kit of parts, and could add no more than $50 worth of their own materials.  

“There are serious objectives to these limits, because in the real world, these future engineers will have to deal with cost constraints when they design things,” said Tim Kowalewski, assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Minnesota. “This is their first-ever engineering course and they had to build a working robot.  At first they felt unprepared.  They had to rapidly acquire new skills to solve problems that they had never seen before —just like professional engineers do every day.  It’s important that students get this experience early in their major and not after they graduate.”

The robots must act for no more than 60 seconds and have at least one moving part, but it is up to the students to determine how the unique machines do something useful—such as sorting marbles, cleaning cell phones, catapulting M&M’s, mixing drinks or cutting vegetables.    

For more information on this event and photos from previous years, visit the Robot Show website.

If you'd like to support University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering student experiential learning, visit our CSE Giving website.