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Colorado School of Mines Robotics Team

School of Mines Robotics Club

Top 10 engineering school incorporates Epilog equipment for rapid prototyping in Robotics Club

With the highest admissions standards of any public university in Colorado, the Colorado School of Mines (CSM) is a public research university devoted to engineering and applied science, and is considered one of the top ten engineering schools in the country.

The CSM Robotics Club, who go by the name of “CSM Robotics”, participates in numerous competitions across the United States, while simultaneously mentoring high school robotics teams and coordinating robotics education programs.

The School of Mines embraces technology,” Joe said, “and being able to utilize an Epilog system has had an incredible impact on our school, our club and our mission.

Joe Daily

As interest increased among students and club membership climbed, CSM Robotics leaders were seeking ways to boost productivity for building their intricate robotic creations. Club President, Joe Daily, knew a laser engraving and cutting system could be the ideal tool to help the club build more capable robots in a shorter amount of time.

“We researched several laser manufacturers,” Daily said, “we’d heard such great things about Epilog and, in terms of proximity (the company is literally just down the road), we knew we had to try it out.”

While capable of both engraving and cutting, the BlasterBots mainly utilized the cutting capabilities of a 75-watt Legend 36EXT. “We did do some engraving,” Daily explained, “such as sponsor logos and other labels on the robots.” Joe said both the engraving and cutting capabilities of the system were beyond his expectations.

“The rapid prototyping capabilities are amazing,” Daily explained, “while final robots are comprised mostly of metal, we prototype all the pieces first with plastic using the laser before we machine the final pieces out of aluminum.”

Incorporating Epilog’s laser technology has allowed the club to engineer high-quality robots at a fraction of the time it used to take. “The machine is a huge time-saver for us,” Joe said. “The laser is orders of magnitude faster than a CNC router. The cutting capabilities are so precise,” Joe continued.

“The Legend 36EXT can hold sub .001″ tolerances for a significant amount of time, which means that the parts produced by the legend are far more precise than what we can do by hand with a mill or lathe. By prototyping first with the laser, we can ensure the final metal cuts are spot-on, and that definitely counts when you’re building a robot. And since plastics are significantly cheaper than metal, this step saves us a good amount of money too.”

Appreciating the user-friendly design of the system, the BlasterBots caught on quickly to the capabilities of Epilog’s equipment.

“There was very little of a learning curve for some of the team members,” Daily said, “but Sarah Le, our vice president of Outreach, and I had both used the equipment before so we were able to help out. Really it’s so easy-to-use that everyone picked up the concept pretty quickly.”

The inclusion of Epilog’s equipment has allowed CSM Robotics to create more sophisticated equipment for 2009 competitions, including their entry in the 2009 Season FIRST Robotics Competition, named “Lunacy.”

In Lunacy, robots must score points while escaping entrapment, aiding their teammates and navigating the surface of a lunar environment.

FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) is an organization founded by inventor Dean Kamen. Established in 1989, the organization aims to develop ways to inspire students in engineering and technology fields, and is the foundation for the FIRST Robotics Competition. “We participated in Lunacy, entering the bot we created with the help of the Legend 36EXT,” Joe said, “and we ended up winning the Rookie Inspiration Award, which is a huge honor for a team who’s never entered before.”

According to FIRST, the Rookie Inspiration Award celebrates a rookie team’s outstanding success in advancing respect and appreciation for engineering and engineers both within their school, as well as in their community. This team models gracious professionalism on and off the field and is a true inspiration to others.

Both Joe and Sarah agreed that by using Epilog’s equipment in the design and engineering process allowed their team to engineer an award-winning robotics entry that they otherwise would not have been able to create with such precision in such a reasonable amount of time.

“The School of Mines embraces technology,” Joe said, “and being able to utilize an Epilog system has had an incredible impact on our school, our club and our mission.”

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