VT tech team finalists in Cornell Cup engineering competition

For immediate release
Jan. 31, 2012

Contact
Martha Trombley Oakes
Phone: 802.728.1732
MTrombleyOakes@vtc.vsc.edu

Randolph, VT – A team of four Vermont Tech students has been chosen as finalists for the inaugural Cornell Cup, USA, a college-level systems engineering competition, created to empower students to become inventors of the newest innovative applications of embedded technology.

The Vermont Tech team, which calls itself the “Knights of the Workbench” — in a nod to the college’s athletic mascot — is made up of: Team Leader and Electromechanical Engineering Technology major Ben Holleran, a sophomore from Chester, Vermont; Computer Engineering majors sophomore Charles Hathaway of Pawlett, Vermont; sophomore Mike Collins of Portsmouth, Rhode Island; and senior Forest Immel of Castleton, Vermont round out the team. Instead of competing on the playing field, however, these Knights will be vying with 24 teams from 19 colleges across the country, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia Tech, University of California, Berkley, and Penn State, name a few.

Assisting the team in the competition are Advisor Lauri Sybel of Randolph, Vermont Tech’s director of career services and Technical Lead Sam Colwell also of Randolph, a part-time Computer Engineering faculty member and a full-time employee of LED Dynamics in Randolph.

The Project
The Knights of the Workbench’s concept is a sophisticated device to help combat binge drinking and drunk driving. The team is constructing a combination robot drink-mixer/ computer that will use an RFID card reader to scan the magnetic strip on the back of a patron’s license. Comparing a customer’s height and weight to a relational database, the computer will automatically enter limits on how many alcoholic beverages the patron can legally consume. Once that limit is reached, the computer will automatically switch to a soft-drink only menu.

In being selected as a Cornell Cup finalist, the Knights of the Workbench received a $2,500 cash stipend to help cover supplies and travel to the two-day competition. Sponsors such as Intel and Tektronix also donated $10,000 in hardware and software to each team to assist in building its invention.

The Competition
This academic year-long project will culminate in a two-day event at Walt Disney World in Florida, held in early May. Student teams will attend talks, network with leading engineering company sponsors, and ultimately showcase their original creations. The selected top three entries will win grand prizes set at $10,000, $5,000, and $2,500.  Additionally, approximately half of the final entrants will receive either a first, second, or third place award as a formal recognition of the significant work achieved. Sponsors may also potentially offer special awards to various teams.

According to Sybel, the Knights are excited to be among this elite group of finalists and are already hard at work.

“The Cornell Cup is an outstanding opportunity — both for these students and for Vermont Tech — to compete in engineering on a national level,” says Sybel. “As finalists, these students are spreading the word about Vermont Tech while also enhancing their resumes and demonstrating their professional design skills, which are highly sought by today’s companies.”

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