Think Cutting Edge

The days of cutting the grass while lying in a hammock just got a little closer.

Team CWRU Cut mowerTeam CWRU Cut (pronounced "Crew Cut") mowed down the field of 14 competitors from around the country to win the university's second straight Institute on Navigation's Autonomous Robotic Lawnmower Competition.

Case Western Reserve University's student-built robot edged along an L-shaped fence, slowed up, then mowed around a moving stuffed dog.

To improve on last year's model, the CWRU Cutters replaced an expensive Light Detection and Ranging System (LIDAR), a remote optical system that uses scattered light to determine distance and other properties of targets — in this case, grass.

In place of LIDAR, the team used inexpensive cameras and a student-developed computerized vision system, said Cutters Adviser Roger Quinn, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering. The system uses algorithms to make sense of color and texture, distinguishing lawn from everything else.

Using cameras trimmed $7,000 off the cost of the equipment, Quinn said.

CWRU Cut was the only mower to cut more than half the grass in the course while avoiding the stuffed dog mounted on a radio-controlled car, said Brad Hughes, the team's technical leader.

The team includes undergraduate student Henry Snow, who is studying computer engineering; master's students Hughes and Jonathan Hall, who are studying electrical engineering, and Andrew Smith, Alexander Schepelmann and Daniel Bennett, who are studying mechanical engineering.

In addition to Quinn, Frank Merat, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, advises the team. The team is sponsored by MTD Products, Inc., based in Medina.

CWRU Cutters, by virtue of winning, will present a paper on their mower at the Institute on Navigation's fall meeting in Portland, Ore.