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NDSU students to take part in snowplow competition

A team of NDSU students is set to compete in the eighth annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition during the St. Paul Winter Carnival Jan. 27-28.

The competition encourages students and individuals to use state-of-the-art navigation and control technologies to rapidly, accurately and safely clear snow.

The NDSU team, named THUNDAR 3.0, will be represented at the competition by students Abdullah Almosalami, Andrew Vetter, Miguel Jara and Rachel Jones.

“This competition offers students with a rare opportunity to learn and practice various techniques of automating ground vehicles for self-navigation in confined spaces, such as in cities,” said team faculty adviser Majura Selekwa, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “The problem of self-navigation in built environments is still a challenge faced by self-driving car manufacturers, and our students have started tackling it.”

The teams are challenged to create autonomous snowplows using GPS, lasers or optical navigation to build a machine to clear a path in a snowfield, in patterns similar to sidewalks and driveways. Teams are judged on how much snow is removed, the speed of the work and how their machine reacts to obstacles.

Almosalami, a sophomore computer science major, is the team leader.After the hundreds of hours of work we put in, I'm sure we're glad to finally get to the fun part,” he said. “We always aim for the win but nonetheless the experience of meeting other people who have done the same things as us and the chance to network with the industry presence in the area is invaluable, and makes all the madness, regardless of the result, totally worthwhile."

The competition is scheduled to take place in downtown St. Paul, Minnesota, between Rice Park and the James J. Hill Reference Library from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. each day.

Other teams registered for the competition are from Case Western Reserve University; Dunwoody College of Technology; Iowa State University; Michigan Technological University; University of Michigan, Dearborn; University of Minnesota, Twin Cities; University of St. Thomas; and Wayne State University.

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