Auburn autonomous lawnmower team earns $10,000 for competition cut

By Morgan Stashick, College of Engineering



Auburn University's autonomous lawnmower team placed second in the Institute of Navigation (ION) robotic lawnmower competition, held June 2-4 in Beavercreek, Ohio. The team earned a $10,000 prize for the dynamic event by navigating their robot, Moe, through a playing field while cutting grass and avoiding obstacles.

Auburn's team includes Michael Carroll, electrical engineering graduate student, William Woodall, software engineering graduate student, John Harrison, software engineering graduate student and Calvin Cutshaw, electrical and computer engineering technician, and is advised by Mark Nelms, chair of Auburn's Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

"There are two classes to the competition, static and dynamic," says Carroll. "The static competition features a rectangular playing field with a single standing obstacle. The dynamic competition is more complicated, because it is a non-square playing field and has two static obstacles—a fence and a flowerbed — as well as a dynamic obstacle, a remote control car."

Areas of the field were assigned different points, with sections of grass closest to the static obstacles assigned the most points for degree of difficulty. Penalties were assigned for robots running outside of the assigned area, colliding with static and dynamic obstacles or needing a restart.

"Since this was our second year entering with this robot, we focused more on software development and controlling the robot instead of the mechanical and electrical aspects," says Carroll. "The design was well thought-out last year, so we didn’t need to make many upgrades."

First place in the dynamic competition went to Case Western Reserve University, who also won the prize for best cut. The University of Florida won first place in the static competition. Auburn's team was the only robot that didn't require a restart throughout the competition.

The Auburn team received support from Auburn engineering alumnus Julian Davidson and his wife Dorothy of Huntsville, which went toward operational expenses and costly building materials for the lawnmower and the team's travel expenses. Davidson, a 1950 graduate in electrical engineering, is president and CEO of Davidson Technologies, a company that provides technical and management support to the aerospace industry.

For more on the ION robotic lawnmower competition, visit

Last Updated: Jun. 22, 2011

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