The frigid weather on Saturday, January 18 did not deter participants and spectators from the annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition held this year at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis.
The event is designed to encourage student interest in the general areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.
Ten teams comprised of university and college students designed, built, and operated fully autonomous snowplows that then competed against each other to accurately remove snow from two rectangular snowfields—a straight single “I” shaped path and a straight double “I” shaped path—in a maximum of 20 minutes. To simulate objects located on a sidewalk or driveway, two fixed posts were placed within each snow path for the vehicles to maneuver around. Teams received a penalty for hitting, moving, or toppling over the post with the vehicle during the plow.
The snowplows were controlled by navigation-aiding systems, free from direct human control, and were either powered by combustible fuel, batteries, or both.
Teams were judged not only on the percentage of the snow path their vehicle cleared but also on a poster board presentation that explained their snowplow’s mechanical design, software architecture, and guidance, navigation and control. The teams with the most points were awarded cash prizes and trophies to commemorate their success.
Spectators and participants were welcomed inside Dunwoody’s facilities to enjoy hot cocoa and cookies throughout the competition, and an indoor snowplow pit provided teams with a space to test and tweak their vehicles between each plowing challenge. In front of Dunwoody’s main entrance, a wall of ice was available for anyone to drill their name into.
The final results of the competition are listed below:
1st Place, $3,000, University of Minnesota – Snow Squirrel
2nd Place, $2,000, Dunwoody College of Technology – Wendigo
3rd Place, $1,000, Dunwoody College of Technology – Snow Devil
4th Place, $500, Dunwoody College of Technology – Wechuge
5th Place, Lake Area Technical Institute (SD) – FroZone
6th Place, Case Western Reserve University – Team OTTO
7th Place, NDSU – Frosty the Snow Plow
8th Place, Université Laval Quebec – Véhicule Autonome
9th Place, University of Michigan – Yeti
10th Place, Case Western Reserve University – Milou