Five students from the American University in Cairo (AUC) won first place at the Student Mechanism and Robot Design Competition, which took place in Anaheim, California in August and was organised by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
The AUC's campus practically became home this summer to Mustafa Sedky, Fares Fawzi, Sarah Elfeqy, Mohamed Samy and Mariam Hegazy, all mechanical engineering seniors at the School of Sciences and Engineering, as they put in countless days and late nights working on their walking robot.
Two AUC teams were finalists in the competition, and were the first teams from Egypt to make this level of the competition in ten years.
“Our hard work paying off is an amazing feeling,” Samy said.
Initially creating the robot for a class, the team designed it to help people with physical disabilities climb stairs. After being accepted into the competition, and under the supervision of their faculty adviser, the chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering Professor Mustafa Arafa, the team modified the robot to be able to walk as well as climb stairs, giving it greater applicability.
“We shifted the whole idea from just being able to climb stairs to something we can continue to innovate,” Sedky explained.
The function of the robot could be extended further in the future, by adding robotic arms, or modifying it to use as a search and rescue device.
It took two months of designing, creating parts and prototyping, then one month of building, before the final prototype was ready.
“The workshop for mechanical engineers had everything, and we used the Robotics Club for late-night stays. We had everything we needed on campus,” said Elfeqy.
The team headed to California in August with a fully functioning robot. However, once they reached their hotel room and pulled out the machine, they found that all its parts had been fried by the scanners at the airport. In an unfamiliar city, they scrambled to find parts and rebuild the prototype.
They spent the whole day gathering pieces and eight hours at night rebuilding, finishing just in time for the competition the next day, and scoring their big win.
The feeling of winning was surreal, according to the team.
“We’re all so happy,” said Samy.