Schunk Ping pong robots

Editor: Steffen Donath

Students of Heilbronn University were challenged with a construction task involving ping pong balls. Schunk was part of the jury and supporting the challenge.

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A total of eight first-semester teams from the mechatronics and robotics course took part in the design competition at Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences.
A total of eight first-semester teams from the mechatronics and robotics course took part in the design competition at Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences.
(Source: Schunk)

Small, light and incredibly mobile. Twenty randomly placed table tennis balls became a challenge for the students from the first semester of the mechatronics and robotics course at Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences in the design competition sponsored by the competence leader for gripping systems and clamping technology. Within six weeks, the young engineers were asked to construct and build a ball robot that would randomly transport scattered table tennis balls from a bordered playing field in the format of two by two meters.

There were three major problems to solve: the principle by which the balls are transported out of the arena, the autonomous navigation of the robot and its drive. What seemed quite simple at first glance proved to be treacherous in the decisive competition. The feather-light bouncing balls were so difficult to collect that only three of the six teams managed to kick balls out of the field. In the end, a wing construction that swept the balls up was the most effective way out of the competition. With it, the winning team was able to get rid of eleven of the twenty balls.

The jury, consisting of Prof. Dr Wolfgang Wehl and Herbert Streit from the Faculty of Mechanics and Electronics as well as Schunk development engineer Michael Franz, honoured the winning teams with the prizes and a special prize for an outstanding solution in terms of idea and design. The latter consisted of a robot with a sweeping device, which was equipped with touch sensors for navigation and could drive both forwards and backwards. For Professor Wehl, the design competition showed that it is often small details that decide whether a technical solution is successful or not. "Our goal is to use the competition sponsored by Schunk to sharpen not only the technical skills of our students but also their creativity and problem-solving skills. The new students should learn at an early stage to think deeply and comprehensively about the tasks at hand, to develop different approaches to solutions and to evaluate them in a goal-oriented manner," emphasized the mechatronics specialist.

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