How to build a robot in six hours: Students compete in Dumpster Dive Competition

Dumpster Dive Competition
Engineer in Residence volunteer Charlie Potter (left) provides support to Dumpster Dive participants.

Armed with ATtiny85 microchips and Arduino Uno microcontroller boards, electrical and computer engineering undergraduates unleashed their creativity at the annual Dumpster Dive Competition March 24. The event dared students to transform old electronics and appliances into functioning robots in the span of six hours.

The thrill of a challenge

Electrical and computer engineering students love a challenge – especially a hacker challenge. “If you present the event as a hacker competition, the students are all over it,” said Sterling Krone, president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) student chapter, who spearheaded the event.

Dumpster Dive Competition
Electrical and computer engineering student Heather Straley used a repurposed microwave frame for the chassis of her robot.

With rock music booming in the background, students raced against the clock to build the fastest, strongest, or most creative robot using materials ranging from old hard drives to microwaves. An industry volunteer from the department’s Engineer in Residence program was on hand to offer technical support.

“The mood was high-powered from start to finish,” said Krone. “By the end of the event, students were jumping up and down with excitement.”

Competition winners

Three teams took home a $100 prize for their originality:

Best load-bearing robot: Team Swolverines – Will Maidhof and Eric Vargas
Fastest robot: Team Unicornasaurus – Sean Finan, Amber Moin, and Zach Scott
Most creative robot: Team Ghost – Kyle Van Aken and Patrick Donovan

With the goal of building community among electrical and computer engineering students, the student-led Dumpster Dive Challenge is a brainchild of the IEEE and Etta Kappa Nu student chapters.