Dec 9 2008

Winboni the window washing robot

At the touch of a button, the autonomous robot cleans the window without the help of Windex and some paper towels. Winboni, a tiny, square robot that runs on AA batteries, attaches itself to the window with a suction fan, moves across the window with powered wheels and scrubs the window clean with felt pads.

This creation is the brainchild of four MSU mechanical engineering students whose product took first place in the International Student Design Competition of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers Nov. 2 in Boston. It took the students five tries and 900 hours to meet contest specifications.

“Things work differently than you think they’re going to; your assumptions might be wrong and that leads you to rebuild things over and over like five or six times,” said Emily Duszynski, a member of the award-winning team.

Duszynski, Kyle Koepf, Jonathan Luckhardt and Joshua Thomet were on the team that designed and built the window washer, which measures 5 inches long, 5 inches wide and 2 inches tall. This is the second time in 12 years that an MSU team won first place and the first time a college repeated the title.

It’s the curriculum of the mechanical engineering department at MSU that allows its students to be successful in the real world, Duszynski said.

“In the real world, in terms of engineering, you need time management skills and you have to figure out how to organize things and manage your project while learning how to deal with problems you’re not expecting,” she said. “So this project is just a miniature example of things you could run into in the real world.”

While research and development took the most amount of time for the team, choosing the name Winboni was easy – and, it came early in the design process, Duszynski said. She and the rest of the team likened the way the robot would clean a window to the way a Zamboni cleans the ice at a hockey rink.

Under the coaching of Andrew Seifert and the mechatronics consulting of mechanical engineering professor Clark Radcliffe, the MSU team competed against schools from all over the world, including Carnegie-Mellon, Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Colorado State University, among others.