Univ. of Minn. students make problem-solving robots for final exam

Finals are in full swing at the University of Minnesota, but not all students are getting graded in the traditional way.

In the entry level mechanic engineering class in the College of Science and Engineering, students have been tasked with making a robot.

The students were tasked with making a computer-controlled machine that could “do something interesting and useful.” Students received a small kit of parts, and could add no more than $50 worth of their own materials.

"It's totally the future of a lot of industry, just automating systems and then making them working more and more efficiently,” said sophomore John Hunt. Hunt made a machine that sorted cans by their bar code. "Like in the shipping industry, you could automate that sorting process instead of having a bunch of people to take a ton of hours to go through it.”

Among the more than 200 robots at the U of M Robot Show Monday were a card dealer, t shirt folder, an egg separator and a drink mixer.

"It's amazing to see what people come up with. Some people are more mechanical, some are more computer programming,” said Cara Piazza who programmed a disco ball and colored lights to dance to the Mario Brothers theme song.

Industry professionals were among the judges, as students were graded on their execution.

Their professor said the time and money constraints were to prepare the students for real jobs.