Logo: University of Southern California

Student Stairmaster

Seniors' Climbing Transporter Takes Top Spot in Regionals; Next Stop, Orlando

April 20, 2005 —
Sergio Ibarra, Erin Wickstrand, and Antonio Trevilla came home from Sacramento April 10 with a first-place regional trophy from
Top row: Ibarra, Wickstrand and Trevilla. Bottom row: Trophy and "National Champion"
the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Student Design Competition.
Their challenge was to design and build a remotely controlled device to carry bulk material through a course-—up 3 steps, around a 90° turn, then down a fourth step on to a platform-—and dump the material into a bin. The transporter was then supposed to go back to the start in order to be be refilled for additional trips through the course.
Teams earned points, 1 per gram, for delivering material into the bin during their 10-minute run. Rules for the competition also specified deductions for some antisocial (from a robot's point of view) behaviors such as touching the device while on the course.   The team with the most points won the competition. In this competition, that team consisted of USC Viterbi School seniors Sergio, Antonio, and Erin, who entered their AME 441/442 project. Their bulk material transporter--named National Champions, in tribute to USC's recent football successes--is a box riding on four main wheels and fitted with four auxiliary wheels. (In the photo, the two auxiliary wheels beneath the box are not visible.)
To climb a step on the course, the transporter was driven forward into the step until the spring-loaded white front auxiliary wheels are pushed beneath the box. Then the box with all four auxiliary wheels attached rises up until the front auxiliary wheels snap forward on the tread  on the step. At this point the transporter is supported by its rear (main) wheels and its front auxiliary wheels.
"National Champion" is his name, climbing stairs with a load is his game
The front main wheels are raised to the level of the stair tread and the vehicle is driven forward by the rear main wheels until the rear auxiliary wheels, located beneath the box just in front of the rear main wheels, are above the stair tread. The transporter then rests on the front main wheels and the rear auxiliary wheels on top of the stair tread. The rear main wheels then raise and the front main wheels drive the transporter forward.

The transporter uses the reverse procedure to go down a step. To negotiate the 90° turn, it lowers a foot and the entire vehicle rotates.

Upon arriving at the dumping platform, the front door drops to form a chute and the granular material, which was rice, pours out. False walls cover both end walls and the rear wall. To encourage the last grains to leave, strings attached to motor-driven shafts on top of the transporter pull these false walls inward.

As winners in ASME Region IX (California, Nevada, Hawaii), Antonio, Erin, and Sergio will travel to Orlando, Florida, to compete at the ASME's International Mechanical Engineering Congress and Exposition on November 13, 2005.
Not as easy as it looks: schematic diagram of competition course.