Mercer University’s Machine Intelligence and Robotics Laboratory Mentors Bibb County’s Successful First-Year Robotics Team


MACON – Team RoboBibb, the Bibb County School District's first-year robotics team recently qualified for the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST) Robotics Championship in St. Louis, Mo. Mercer University's Machine Intelligence and Robotics Laboratory (MIRL) played an integral role in the success of the rookie team that is composed of high school students from Central, Howard, Hutchings Career Center, Northeast, Rutland and Westside.

Dr. Anthony Choi, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and director of MIRL, and three of his students – senior computer engineering major Brandon Borah, sophomore computer engineering major Art Hanner and sophomore mechanical engineering major Spencer Penley – worked with RoboBibb and faculty adviser Joe Finklestein, both in the high school classroom and at summer workshops.

“We discovered how Mercer University School of Engineering could act as a catalyst for new interest in prospective students and a source of knowledge for student teams,” said Dr. Choi. “In fact, I was told by Mr. Finklestein that our workshops were the catalyst for Team RoboBibb.”

These workshops covered all aspects of FIRST Robotics competition, as MIRL mentored multiple local teams in an effort by the School of Engineering to fill a void in robotics training in Central Georgia. The only other institution in the state to offer similar training is Georgia Tech, but its workshops primarily serve Metro Atlanta schools.

“By going over sensor characteristics and sensor fusion and their relationship to actuators in the context of autonomous programming, students gain ideas and strategies on how they could solve or improve on previous years' designs. As the competition got underway, we shifted from workshops to individual team support,” Dr. Choi said of the training, which is supported by a grant from NASA's Georgia Space Grant Consortium.

“RoboBibb was a rookie team and thereby drew much of our attention. Spencer, Art and Brandon spent countless hours with the RoboBibb team in person.”

Those hours of work paid off, as RoboBibb earned two awards at the FIRST Robotics Peachtree Regional Competition March 29 in Atlanta. The team was named Highest Seeded Rookie Team, earning the most points for a rookie team in the competition, and Rookie All-Star, exemplifying young but strong partnership and implementing the mission of FIRST to inspire students to learn more about science and technology. The latter award qualified the team for the competition in St. Louis, April 23-26, which will include other teams from all over the world.

“MIRL is proud to have been part of the amazing success of Team RoboBibb,” said Dr. Choi.

About the School of Engineering

Mercer University's School of Engineering, founded in 1985, offers innovative and academically challenging programs that provide students with a comprehensive education, featuring a solid foundation in mathematics and sciences, a core engineering curriculum, a range of courses in engineering specialties and a strong emphasis on communication technologies. The School is consistently ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the top three master's-degree-level engineering schools in the Southeast. Known for its breadth of instruction in its undergraduate program and its five-year joint bachelor's and master's degree program, the School combines technical education with hands-on laboratory experience. Mercer engineers can look forward to joining fellow alumni in companies such as Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, Lockhead Martin, Georgia Power, Siemens and Gulfstream Aerospace.

Kyle Sears
Kyle is the director of media relations at Mercer. In addition to being the primary media contact for most academic and administrative units of the university, he coordinates hometown and university news releases and serves as editor of the News@Mercer e-newsletter and Reach magazine.​