The Robotics Club at the University of Central Florida (UCF) is made up of undergraduate and graduate level students who seek real-world engineering experience. Currently, the Robotics Club has more than 30 students with varying technical backgrounds including mechanical, electrical, and computer science. These students have the opportunity to work on various projects of their choice either in autonomous competitions, research-based projects, or outreach programs (e.g., STEM education) for local schools and neighboring communities.
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Vice president of the UCF Robotics Club, Therese Salas, is one of the leaders for the club that now has more than 30 undergraduate and graduate level student members.

Additionally, the club participates in several large annual competitions that are sponsored by the military. One recent example is the 2016 AUVSI International RoboSub Competition held July 25-31 in San Diego, California. Each year, teams in the competition design and build fully autonomous, robotic submarines that must complete several underwater missions. This year the competition challenge included underwater navigation, buoy color detection, and accurately firing underwater projectiles, among other tasks. The competition provides a unique challenge to encourage students to discover innovative ideas to accomplish real-world scenarios using the most relevant technologies.

“We have been sponsoring the UCF Robotics Club and their participation in military competitions for well over a decade”, says Dr. Neal Finkelstein, chief engineer for the Army Research Lab (ARL) in Orlando, Florida. “Many years ago before unmanned systems really became daily news in the military, we had a vision that this technology could save lives and spread into many different non-military applications,” Finkelstein said. “As such, we wanted to make sure that Team Orlando had a university that really understood the science of unmanned systems, and put graduate students into the pipeline with a knowledge of robotics for our M&S industry, academia and government employment.”

Additionally, Irwin Hudson, an ARL science and technology manager, has been working with the UCF Robotics Club for many years said, “Of all the STEM initiatives we have been involved with, I believe these robotic events give students a cradle to grave opportunity to create, present, and test their design against the likes of Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, Stanford, Georgia Tech, and major universities in other countries. This gives them valuable experience that motivates and inspires them, and occasionally, companies will offer students intern positions on the spot at these competitions.”

Another initiative the UCF Robotics Club recently added is DemoBot, short for “Demonstration Robot,” an internal project whose purpose is to give students an opportunity to develop designs, prototype ideas, and learn the fundamentals of robotics. DemoBot is also used for demonstrations at Florida’s K-12 schools showcasing key concepts of autonomous robotics, the specialty of the Robotics Club.

The current DemoBot prototype consists of GPS navigation, laser sensing, and a programmed mechanical claw for practical application. Demobot is always evolving as members are discovering innovative ways to improve its design and functionality.

The Robotics Club at UCF is always looking for additional sponsorships and dedicated people to join in the advancement of the robotics field. Please join or follow them through their newsletter (robotics.ucf.edu), twitter (@RoboticsClubUCF), or Facebook (@RoboticsClub); or email them at robotics@ucf.edu.