VIDEO: Engineering Skills Soar Into the Sky

College students at drone competition | Image by CBS News Texas

College students from three states competed in a drone competition at the University of Texas at Arlington on Saturday.

The 4th Annual Autonomous Vehicle Competition, held on April 12 on UTA’s campus, allowed students from across the country to demonstrate their skills.

The competition started with three teams and has grown to 10, with this year’s teams coming from Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas.

“It is a design project where students are forced to think about how to design autonomous vehicles given a set of requirements and constraints,” David Wetz, an electrical engineering professor at UTA, told The Dallas Express. “Autonomous ground and aerial vehicles are, of course, everywhere, and so educating students in this technical field is preparing them not only to enter that workforce but other similar engineering workforces.”

UTA has mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science teams. Each team has four members who work together and contribute in their own way. The school has competed all four years with a new team of students each year. The team took home first place in their first competition, followed by second the next year, and first again last year.

Students are required to design autonomously flying drones and autonomous ground vehicles, Wetz told DX.

The students work on these drones over a two-semester course sequence.

“Being able to get out and build something that’s tangible in a fun project, it’s been a really great thing to do,” SMU senior Blake Gebhardt told CBS News Texas.

Each year’s competition has a different theme, and this year’s was “Water Blast.” The drones were supposed to take off and autonomously scan the football field, looking for ground drones around the field. Once found, the drones were supposed to spray those drones on the ground with water.

“Competition evolves and changes each year with new teams coming on board,” Wetz said.

UT Dallas came out on top this year, with UT Arlington coming in fourth.

The competition is made possible through a partnership with Raytheon. Wetz added that more competitions are coming throughout the West and East Coast, Puerto Rico, and the central United States.

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