Technical Articles

Teaching and Learning Resources: Student Competitions – Project-Based Learning in Action

By MathWorks

Competitions support project-based learning by inviting students to think like engineers. Each competition presents a unique engineering challenge that may require months, or even years, of intense focus and hard work. Using industry-standard tools such as MATLAB® and Simulink®, and low-cost hardware such as Arduino®, Beagleboard, LEGO® MINDSTORMS®, and Raspberry Pi™, students tackle real engineering problems. They also acquire the collaboration, project-management, and leadership skills they will need for careers in industry.

Student Competitions - Project-based Learning
Left to right: TU Dresden Robotik AG (TURAG) team winning second place in the Eurobot German Nationals, TU Dresden Elbflorace team working on a Formula Student racecar, Ohio State University team with the Buckeye Bullet 2.

In the Students’ Own Words

“Our primary aim is the yearly participation in the Eurobot competition with our own individually designed and manufactured robot. Building an autonomously acting robot requires a huge amount of complex calculation, for which we use MATLAB and Simulink. Using these tools we developed an A*-algorithm-based routing process for the robot and analyzed data measured by laser distance sensors.” —Richard Rudat, TU Dresden Robotik AG (TURAG) team

“At Mississippi State University, I used MATLAB and Simulink extensively to develop hybrid vehicle system control algorithms and model the various components that make up a hybrid vehicle. These tools allowed me to rapidly develop and validate highly sophisticated vehicle control algorithms. By putting these control algorithms to use in the EcoCAR competition, I was able to find success in a highly diverse team environment, which in turn landed me my job at Argonne National Laboratory.” —Brian Benoy, EcoCAR2

Developing Advanced Controls for the Buckeye Bullet

A battery-powered landspeed streamliner built by students at Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research set a new international electric vehicle record. Competing in the FIA Landspeed Record for Electric and Battery Powered vehicles, held each August at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, the Buckeye Bullet 2 reached a speed of 307 miles per hour, making it the fastest vehicle on the planet.

The OSU team’s current vehicle, Buckeye Bullet 3, is expected to achieve 400 mph. When a vehicle covers 1 mile every 9 seconds and takes only 6 miles to reach its top speed, a control failure would be catastrophic. The team uses Simulink system models and runs multiple simulations to predict vehicle performance and test new control systems.

Competitions Sponsored by MathWorks

MathWorks equips student teams with software, training, and mentoring in competitions worldwide.

Automotive: American Solar Challenge, EcoCAR2, Formula SAE Competition of Japan, Smart Car Contest, EducEco, Formula Student Germany

Robotics: BEST Robotics, FIRST Robotics, ET ROBOCON, ROBO-ONE, RoboCup

Aerospace: AUVSI RoboBoat and RoboSub, The International Micro Air Vehicle Flight Competition, UAV Challenge – Outback Rescue

Programming and Math: Contemporary Undergraduate Mathematical Contest in Modeling, Cornell Cup

Biotech: iGEM

Published 2013 - 92135v00