On a late afternoon this week, a group of students gathered around a work station in the composites lab in Butterfield Hall.
The six – mechanical engineering students Ryan Tremblay ‘16, Jonathan Martin ‘16 and Marian Chee ‘16, along with Sean Kingsbury, Ethan Kranick and Julian Van Court Wells from nearby Schenectady High School, examined a radio-controlled car resting on a table.
Not just any car, though. This modified car with its studded tires and customized plastic shovel attached to the front bumper could be the difference in engineering bragging rights between Union and its rivals to the east.
When the Union’s men’s hockey team faces off against RPI in the third annual Mayor’s Cup Saturday night at the Times Union Center in Albany, spectators will be treated to a side competition with an academic bent: robo-hockey.
Between the first and second period, the team from Schenectady will face off against students from RPI and Troy High. The teams will maneuver three modified cars designed to push a puck around the rink. The first team to get its puck around the course and into the far net wins.
There also will be a display in the arena’s concourse.
“We are trying to tap into the energy associated with one of the oldest college rivalries to inspire pre-college students to consider engineering as a career,” said Ronald Bucinell, associate professor of mechanical engineering.
This is the second attempt at a friendly contest between Union and RPI, which both boast prominent engineering programs. During the first inaugural Mayor’s Cup in 2013, the two schools planned to face off with wheeled robots that students from each school designed and built to knock a puck into the net. But RPI had to drop out at the last-minute because its robot wasn’t ready.
If all goes well Saturday night, robo-hockey could be part of the Mayor’s Cup each year.
“This has been a great experience for our robotics students,” said Erin Miller, a technology teacher at Schenectady High School. “We are right in the middle of robotics season, so to be able to do something at this level with the College is very exciting.”