Since the first of the year, the Rice Robotics Club has won second place in two robotics competitions, and in one of them, outdid teams with members already working for engineering companies.
“Yeah, we came in second, but the main point is that we’re students and we beat a bunch of professionals. We’re pretty proud of that,” said Paul Chaguine of the Robot in 3 Days competition, held Jan. 4-8 in the Ryon Engineering Laboratory on the Rice campus. Chaguine, a senior in chemical engineering and an engineering intern at Weatherford International, is president of the Rice Robotics Club.
Chaguine’s group, Team O-RYON, was made up of students from Rice, Stanford, Arizona State and Johns Hopkins universities, and the Webb Institute, an engineering college in Glen Cove, N.Y. They competed against teams of professional robotic engineers from such companies as AndyMark, iRobot, and iRCreative.
On Jan. 11, Chaguine and four other students took second place in the VEX-U competition held in Tahlequah, Okla. They competed against teams from the University of Texas at Austin, Oklahoma Christian University and Northeastern State University in Oklahoma.
On the team with Chaguine were Teju Kishore, a sophomore in chemical engineering, and Jose Avalos and Prudhvi Boyapalli, both freshmen, all from Rice, and Harry Craig, a junor in structural engineering at the University of Houston-Downtown. At the same time, teams from 11 elementary schools and 64 high schools competed. The Rice students doubled as referees and helped run the competition software.
“It was a lot of work and a lot of fun helping those younger kids get into the robotics world,” he said.
The Rice Robotics Club was founded in 2008 by Andrew J. Lynch, who earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering in 2009 and a second master’s in computer science in 2011, both from Rice. He now works for Sparx Engineering in Manvel, Texas.
Lynch organized a robotics club at Lamar High School in Houston, with Chaguine as a member before he graduated in 2010. Chaguine is one of three former high school students who were part of the Lamar Robotics Club and subsequently enrolled at Rice. The other two are Brian Biekman, a senior in psychology, and Nelson Chen, a junior in computer science.
At Lamar, Chaguine enjoyed chemistry and the engineering aspects of the Robotics Club. “So I just combined my favorite subjects and decided to go into chemical engineering,” said Chaguine, whose father, Petr Chaguine, is a research scientist in the physics and astronomy department at Rice.
Chaguine still works with Lamar students during “robot season.” “A lot of kids at Lamar have gone into engineering or something in science because of the Robotics Club. It encourages them in that direction,” he said.
The Rice team’s faculty adviser is James McLurkin, assistant professor of computer science.
—Patrick Kurp, Engineering Communications
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