Students in the mechatronics class at Cornell University watch their robots compete for blocks. (Photo by Zoë Freer-Hessler)

ITHACA, N.Y.—Duffield Hall is no exception to the end-of-semester bustle on Cornell University’s campus. For the eighth year, after a hiatus in 2020, the Cornell mechatronics class held its annual robotics competition in partnership with the semiconductor company ASML on Tuesday, Dec. 7.

“ASML has been sponsoring the mechatronics course here at Cornell for the past nine years,” said Ken Bogursky, director of mechanical development at ASML. “It’s been a great opportunity to give back to the university and sponsor growing engineers interested in mechatronics.”

Featuring 50 teams comprised of students from the mechatronics class, the assignment for this year’s competition was for two similar robots to compete to bring as many blocks as possibly dispersed on the competition board to the home side of the board, explained Sanket Rairker, a test engineer at ASML who works with mechatronics class.

“The board is split into two sides, each side has its own color,” Rairker said. “This is a nice way to show their skills and that they know how to program a robot without controlling the motors, which is a part of this course, and make sure that they can plan their way around the board, not only stay on the board but to have the maximum number of blocks on their side.”

Each team is made up of three students, and the autonomous robots began on either the blue or yellow side and competed head-to-head for the blocks. Because of the end goal of collecting the most blocks, each robot was designed with some type of mechanism to push and contain blocks once they had reached them. One had a snow-plow–like design with long arms that folded down to extend the plow. The ends of each arm were shaped to hold onto the blocks that were collected so long as forward movement was maintained.

Another robot had a base designed in the shape of a “U” to collect and hold on to any blocks it ran over. Another used arms facing backward so that after it maneuvered around the blocks, they would be trapped.

“The teams will compete with autonomous robots for the win, with Cornell looking to hang onto its title after successfully unseating ASML as the running champion in 2019,” Rairker said. “This year, some of the teams will include Cornell alums who joined the rival ASML team upon graduation.”

Felipe Santamaria, a student in the mechatronics class and an intern at ASML, said that the class has two projects throughout the semester and that the first project had been individualized and had allowed students to design their own project.

“I’ve learned a lot of things about circuitry and coding and design kind of come together in the real world,” Santamaria said of the class. “It’s been cool because Ken comes to our classes sometimes and gives presentations about how all the things that we’ve learned in class actually goes and is applied in the industry.”

CORRECTION 12/31/21: the headline previously stated that this was the 8th annual year partnering with ASML but it is the 9th annual year of the partnership.

Zoë Freer-Hessler is the digital editor/reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Joining in November 2021, she has covered a wide range of topics related to local news. She can be reached at,...