No Vanderbilt Robotics team? Six sophomores step up, invite all majors

Vanderbilt Robotics leadership, clockwise from far left: Secretary Cameron Loviska (Math and Econ, '19), Treasurer Jacob Lundy (CS'19), Senior Coordinator Lin Liu (ME'19), Event Coordinator Harrison Yan (ME'19), President Furichous Jones IV (ChemE'19), Vice President Andrew Greenberg (ME'19). (Vanderbilt University/Heidi Hall)

Engineering students who like motorsports can join a club for that.

Hackathons? That too.

Model rocket launches? Yep.

But until now, one popular engineering hobby was missing from the list: robotics. That’s despite the fact that mechanical engineering is the school’s oldest department, and medical and surgical robotics helped put Vanderbilt on the world stage.

Starting in Spring 2017, following a semester of skill-building workshops, Vanderbilt Robotics will be looking to compete. More than 50 students from across the campus and virtually every undergraduate school and college have signed up as members through the Anchor Link student organizations site.

It began last academic year with six freshmen who ultimately formed the club’s core leadership team.

“At the beginning of last year, we were just brainstorming about a team,” said Lin Liu (ME’19), Vanderbilt Robotics’ senior coordinator. “We know a lot of people who think robotics is cool, so we reached out them. By the end of the year, we had all of the paperwork done and were asking faculty members to advise us.”

They found a match with Nabil Simaan, associate professor of mechanical engineering, computer science and otolaryngology, who is working on machine intelligence in surgical robots.

Simaan said he agreed to advise the fledgling group because they will experience hands-on learning of concepts that otherwise may be only theoretical. Competition, he said, fosters creativity and innovation for problem-solving.

“It’s an exciting endeavor,” Simaan said. “I also appreciate how the club is going to open more doors for School of Engineering students to share activities with students from other majors.”

President Furichous Jones IV (ChemE’19) said the club’s strategy is to focus on workshops now so that members acquire all of the knowledge and skills necessary to compete successfully.

“C++ coding, circuits, CAD, fabrication – we’ll need people with strong backgrounds in all of those areas,” Jones said. “We’re going to offer the workshops at three levels, so we also welcome novices in robotics to come join us.”

The club plans to compete in events organized by the Robotics Education & Competition Foundation, which most famously coordinates VEX events across the country.

Those interested in joining the club or teaching workshops can visit Anchor Link or email club leadership here.


Heidi Hall (615) 322-6614
On Twitter @VUEngineering