When University of Arkansas – Fort Smith student Justin Kazy of Van Buren traveled to the IEEE robotics competition in Denver, Colo., earlier this month, his goal was to place in the top 10.
He easily surpassed that goal when he placed fourth at the competition out of 32 competing teams comprised of undergraduates from other universities in the region.
The event tasked competitors to program an autonomous robot to map a tunnel and investigate caches at the tunnel’s endpoints, while also having to navigate through obstacles.
“All of the competition requirements were known ahead of time and I tried to make sure there would be very little programming or modification of the robot needed,” Kazy said. “One of the biggest challenges was sensor development and an algorithm that worked well for that sensor. As far as the process goes, it was a matter of using the concepts of what I've learned in class: develop the idea, test it, determine if it could be modified in any way to improve performance, and continue those steps until you have what you think will be the best.”
There were three rounds of the competition, with standings released after each round. Kazy, who traveled to the competition with fellow UAFS students and University of Arkansas at Fayetteville students, was shocked to see he was in fifth place. He was even more surprised when they moved into fourth place after the second round, and even after a very difficult final round, his fourth-place standing held.
“When the final results were announced I was blown away. Fourth place, 20 points ahead of fifth place,” he said. “I can’t say enough about the support I received from the group in attendance.”
A non-traditional student, Kazy earned his GED in 1995 and worked for local area newspapers for two decades before deciding to return to school to earn an associate degree in electronics technology before pursuing a bachelor’s in electrical engineering technology.
He credited the support of faculty and staff members at both UAFS and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville with helping him succeed in the competition, as well as Hoang Vu, a classmate who helped “tremendously” with the software aspects of the project.
While Kazy doesn’t know what he wants to do after graduation, he said this experience, as well as the education he’s received at UAFS, is helping prepare him for his future.
“The possibilities seem to be endless with the knowledge and training I have received from classes and faculty, and what I will do with that may be the hardest part of school yet,” he said. “I do know this competition has prepared me in more ways than I can say for the real world applications I will face after graduation.”
About the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith
The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith is the premiere regional institution of Western Arkansas, connecting education with careers and serving as a driver of economic development and quality of place in the greater Fort Smith region. Through a small campus, dedicated professors, and the university’s unique bond with its community, students at UAFS are able to do more in the areas they are passionate about, both on- and off-campus, in a way that prepares them for post-graduate success. To find out how you can do more at UAFS, visit www.uafs.edu.