Wednesday, 11 April 2007 17:53

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  • History
  • Current information
  • This year's competition & rules

About Us

The VT IEEE Hardware Team is a secondary organization of Virginia Tech's IEEE Student Chapter. It consists of motivated students who are interested in the hardware, software, and electronics that make robotics possible.

Each spring, Region 3 of the IEEE holds its largest technical, educational, and competitive conference known as SoutheastCon. Teams of students work to design robots that compete to solve a given problem and meet a set of specifications. Our team here has been mostly student run and is typically managed by the team captain and senior members. After several months of designing and testing, all those wishing to go can travel to the competition hosted by another student branch. Teams usually complete several rounds of competition: multiple preliminaries and then single elimination head-to-head, with the best teams earning recognition at the awards banquet.

These efforts duplicate several ECE classes ranging from Embedded Design and Artificial Intelligence to Electronics and Software Engineering. ME courses similar to Mechatronics are also duplicated.

You can also receive class credit! Up to 3 hours per semester in Technical or Design Technical elective credit.  The IEEE Hardware Team is a great resume builder too. Many team members have received notable internships and work offers after graduation as a result of participating on the team.


The VT IEEE Hardware Team has been around for a long time in some form or another. It was very large in the late 80's and early 90's and won first place in 1990.

Sometime between 1990 and in the early 2000's the team lost a lot of momentum and almost disbanded completely. In recent years, the team has peformed well below its capability and a lot of that was due to time constraints for the members.

In 2007/2008, the team built a robot that located and retrieved wooden blocks with RFIDs embedded in them. We took a complicated approach using a Spartan 3E FPGA development board from Xilinx that contained a 50 MHz Microblaze 32-bit processor. Our method of retrieval was a mechanical arm built from competition if we'd had another weekend or two to workout some bugs.

In 2008/2009, we made sure to simplify our hardware design, opting instead for an 8-bit Atmel processor running at at 16 MHz. This allowed us to focus less on software complexity, and more on how to build a robot capable of picking up bottles and cans and sorting them. Unfortunately, active team membership fell to just a handful of guys and the robot remained mostly incomplete and was unable to compete.

Last year:

Kevin Green, a VT CPE alumni (class of 2011), made a revolution in the team by convincing the ECE department in sponsoring the project by giving the team financial support. Also, thanks to Kevin, the department has agreed to give 3 technical elective credits to the particpants of the team. Last year we were team. Last year we were a team of around 17 students (CpE, EE, ME) and worked on the project for 2 semesters.

Last year's task is to build an autonomous solar-powered robot that tackles obstacles and avoids power failure. Its goal is to navigate around a closed course and complete as many laps as possible in the time allotted. Rules prohibit the use of active energy storage devices and size obstacles limit the robot to a width of less than 12 inches.

We have not won any award unfortunately, but we sure have won the gain of knowledge, experience, self-confidence and appreciation on the matter. Now we have the experience, we will aim for an award.


This year, Assistant Dpt. Head Dr. Jaime De La Ree along with professor Cameron Patterson have become our faculty sponsors, and financial supporters of the team, and we hope to get committed members willing to work hard in exchange for classroom technical elective credit. Dr. De La Ree was involved with the team back in the beginning when it earned much of its success. This is also the first time that credit has been offered to the team and it is our hope that it will entice more people to join and stay commited.

This year, The IEEE Robotics Team will work through fall semester 2010 and spring semester 2011 to build an autonomous emergency response robot that will compete in the SoutheastCon 2011 Student Hardware Competition.

The robot must meet these speficiations:

1. Not exceed a size of 20 cm x 20 cm x 20 cm

2. Be completely autonomous and have a start button to activate the robot

  3. Not contain or employ any substances that pose a hazard to persons or property

The robot must be designed to do the following:

1. Locate location victims trapped in a building

a. There may be up to three victims in each room

2. Determine the status of each victim

a. Victims may be conscious, unconscious, or dead

3. Navigate around obstacles in rooms

4. Sense the presence of hazards

5. Report information on victims and hazards to emergency responders


Our timeline for completion begins with the start of fall classes and continues at a rapid pace. The first month will most likely be dedicated to team organization and research. We will use this time to become familiar with the parameters of the competition and look into existing solutions.

The following months of October and November will consist of both sub groups and meeting independently and as one to design and prototype the robot. Although the competition is not until March, the team will be expected to produce a system that can solve at least one aspect of a sub groups project. Sub groups will also be responsible for setting up their own milestones and demonstrating them to the class on the specified dates. Finally, presentations and final papers will be due at the end of the semester in place of any examination.


Official rules are here:

The official SoutheastCon website is here: