CWRU Cutter

The CWRU Cutter robot lawnmower prototype.

The Challenge

Assemble a team of undergraduate and graduate students to design and build a prototype robot lawnmower. In six short months, the robot will be Case Western Reserve University’s entry in the Institute of Navigation’s Annual Autonomous Robot Lawnmower competition.

The Outcome

A team of mechanical, electrical, and software engineering students was assembled and went straight to the drawing board. Early on in the design process, the team had to choose if they would build or buy the control electronics and other sensors.

Due to the short timeline and adequate budget, the team chose to buy most of the control electronics and sensors from COTS component vendors such as National Instruments, VEX Robotics, Dimension Engineering, SICK AG, Cloud Cap Technology, and NovAtel.

Choosing to buy COTS meant that the team could spend most of their focus on control algorithms and software design. The team started building robot simulation software which enabled them to write algorithms while the physical robot was being fabricated. Tools such as Subversion, LabVIEW, LabVIEW FPGA Module, LabVIEW Vision Development Module, and MATLAB were leveraged to manage, debug, and deploy the robot’s control software.

Once the robot’s chassis was fabricated, the motors, sensors, and control electronics were fit into a waterproof Pelican case. After bringing up and testing various subsystems, the team successfully debugged and deployed the simulated software just in time for the competition.

CWRU Cutter placed third in 2008 and placed first in 2009, 2010, and 2011. In 2011, the team received the “Best Quality of Cut Award” which had not previously been awarded:

For the first time in the competition’s eight-year history, CWRU Cutter, the team’s robot lawn mower, earned the “Best Quality of Cut Award” for mowing 80 percent of the competition’s cutting field area while creating an aesthetically pleasing look to the resulting field. – Congratulations CWRU Cutter for taking 1st place