April 1, 2022

NDSU team takes first place in autonomous snowplow competition


The NDSU Bison Robotics autonomous snowplow team excelled during the 12th annual Autonomous Snowplow Competition held Jan. 20-22 at Dunwoody College of Technology in Minneapolis.

The NDSU team combined with a squad from Case Western Reserve University to take first place in the “Squad-two teams, Triple-I Snowfield Overall” division. Each team earned a $1,500 prize.

The NDSU autonomous snowplow team is part of the Bison Robotics Club, with the objective to advance student knowledge in the areas of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, professionalism, and leadership.

“Every year, the NDSU autonomous snowplow team participates in the national competition which involves top engineering schools in the Upper Midwest region and Canada. Although the team has previously won several awards, this is the first time it has won first place,” said club faculty advisor Majura Selekwa, associate professor of mechanical engineering. “I am very proud of this achievement, which is an indication that the team has perfected its skills in engineering design and control software development. They worked hard to complete the project, through which they developed new and better organizational skills that led to successful project completion. I believe that this is just the beginning; the team will continue doing better in the future.

NDSU’s entry, “Frosty the Snow Plow,” weighs 766 pounds and has four-wheel and articulated steering. The snowplow robot uses an Inertial Measurement Unit, along with GPS coordinates; a SICK LiDAR sensor to detect obstacles; navigates using a path planner subsystem of software; and uses a game evaluator for high-level decision making. It took an estimated 1,200 hours to build during the past year and a half.

“We have teams that navigate around the field using magnetic tape laid down on the pavement for teams like us that use our wheel speed and acceleration to track where we are on the field and plan its own path to get to different set points,” said team leader Riley Reitmeier, a sophomore majoring in mechanical engineering from Monticello, Minnesota. “The variation in solutions is why this competition is great. Something as simple as clearing snow for an autonomous robot has a million different solutions.”

Reitmeier said the thing he enjoyed most about the competition was talking with other teams about how they solved different aspects of the design and construction of their snowplows. He also wanted to acknowledge the contributions of recent graduate Connor Reitmeier, who was team leader when the team began work on the project in September 2020, and past team members Andrew Bergersen and Sean Perry.

Other current team members include Alexander Hasbargen, Jacob Koshiol, Jonathan Mathieu, Nathan Hoffman, Alexander Geer, David Pearson, Noah Gunderson and Calvin Stepan.

The competing schools at the Autonomous Snowplow Competition included:

Case Western Reserve University

Dunwoody College of Technology

Lake Area Technical College


Universite Laval

University of Michigan-Dearborn

University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

University of Ottawa

Carleton University

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