The simulated soybean field created by the Kansas State University Robotics Design Team for the 2015 annual student robotics design competition at the annual meeting of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers.
By Beth Bohn
MANHATTAN — The streak continues. The Kansas State University Robotics Design Team is the winner of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers’ annual student robotics design competition for the ninth year in a row.
And the winning doesn’t stop at the top this year. A second Kansas State University robotics design in the competition won third place — but team members, displaying good sportsmanship, decided to yield the honor to the fourth-place team from Zhejiang University in China.
The competition took place at the society’s annual meeting, July 26-29, in New Orleans. The aim of the competition is to encourage undergraduate and graduate students to develop innovative robotic solutions to real-life problems in agriculture.
Automated plant phenotyping was the focus of this year’s competition challenge. Phenotyping helps breeders identify the behavior of plants under certain conditions and determine which plant strains are best suited for those conditions. When done by hand, phenotyping can be a time-consuming task, but automation could greatly increase the throughput, hence improving the phenotyping efficiency, said Naiqian Zhang, team advisor and a professor of biological and agricultural engineering.
“For the competition, the student teams had to construct a fully automated robotic system designed to simulate the assessment of soybean plants in the field, ” Zhang said. “Each team’s robotic system had to collect and deliver samples of all detected phenotypes in the field, requiring the systems to identify plants by color and height, and deliver them to a reporting station.”
The “field” was an 8-by-8-foot board with specially made pieces to represent the plants. Teams earned points for accuracy in phenotype detection and collection, and for elegance and creativity.
Zhang said the university’s Robotics Design Team always enters two designs, Plan A and Plan B, in the competition, and that both designs are the product of work by the entire team.
“For this year, Plan A was a slick, compact robot that accurately sensed the color and size of individual plants and precisely picked up the samples,” Zhang said. “Plan B, on the other hand, used wirelessly transmitted images of plant rows for remote sensing. Both designs earned significant amounts of points for elegance and creativity.”
To learn more about the university’s Robotics Design Team, watch a talkgiven by Zhang at the 2015 Spotlight K-State.
The following students were members of the Robotics Design Team:
Jared Gross, senior in biological systems engineering, Chapman; Katie Dhuyvetter, sophomore in electrical and computer engineering, and Sriramana Sankar, sophomore in biological systems engineering, both from Manhattan.
From out of state: Grant Ferland, junior in mechanical engineering, Kansas City, Missouri; and Justin Frazier, master’s student in biological and agricultural engineering, Tonkawa, Oklahoma, and team captain.
From out of country: Yuqi Song, master’s student in biological and agricultural engineering, Fushun, China; Yong Wei, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, Tianjin, China; Tingting Wu, visiting scholar in biological and agricultural engineering, Yangcheng, China; and Mohammed Hasan, doctoral student in biological and agricultural engineering, Baghdad, Iraq.
Team members who participated in the competition included Sankar, Frazier, Song, Wei and Wu.