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Cal Poly team wins engineering prize

Cal Poly engineering students, from left, Jake Muir, Jorge Hernandez, Mishal Shah, Arturo Ayal-Navarro and Saul Fierro with their Dual Sport Box robot. Their invention won first place at this year’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National Conference in Ohio.
Cal Poly engineering students, from left, Jake Muir, Jorge Hernandez, Mishal Shah, Arturo Ayal-Navarro and Saul Fierro with their Dual Sport Box robot. Their invention won first place at this year’s Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers National Conference in Ohio. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

The idea to create a robotic basketball toy for kids was simple enough, but putting it into action wasn’t so easy.

Succeeding at that task after several all-nighters and dozens of hours of tinkering, a team of Cal Poly engineering students took first place in a recent national competition hosted by the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in Cincinnati.

The event is the nation’s largest technical and occupational conference for Hispanic engineers.The team of Jake Muir, Jorge Hernandez, Arturo Ayal-Navarro, Mishal Shah and Saul Fierro designed a robotic basketball hoop that moves away from children, requiring the player to chase after it and shoot at a moving target.

The toy incorporates sonar sensors and infrared technology to detect people within a 3-foot radius.“We were staying up until 5 and 6 in the morning working on this,” Muir said. “We had a lot of late nights.”

The students spent four days at the Ohio fall competition in which they were challenged with creating a product that motivates kids to be more active.

Shah said their invention, which earned them $3,000 in prize money and up to $5,000 for the pursuit of a patent, even had the judges playing with it.

“That’s why we’re saying it’s for people ages 7 and up,” Shah said. “We didn’t want adults to think they couldn’t play with it as well.”

The team included computer engineering, mechanical and civil engineering students. Computer science professor Christopher Clark was the team’s adviser.

They spent about seven weeks building the prototype, using materials such as plastic piping and computer hardware. They participated in the project as an extracurricular activity outside their class work.

“We learned a lot, from how to put together a project like this from scratch from a business perspective,” Ayal-Navarro said. “One of the things we had to do was analyze the costs, and that was very valuable, I think, for any future work like this.”

The students say they’re not sure yet if they’ll pursue a patent, expecting it will cost about $10,000, and may seek the assistance of investors.

They estimate the toy would cost $342 if purchased wholesale. The device would come much cheaper in bulk, and they believe it would be a marketable high-end toy.

The students said they had a friendly competition with another Cal Poly team, which developed the Jamm Jumper, a technologically advanced toy that uses music to get kids jumping. That team, which took third place at the competition, included students Manual Ureno, Adam Rizkalla, Manuel Carrasco, Jeremy Ramos, Christina Ruiz and Stephanie Reveles.

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