Wednesday, July 6, 2022

MSU STARX team hosts 2022 STARX event for the first time

May 27, 2022
Photo courtesy of Daniel Vance, president of STARX.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Vance, president of STARX. —

Five years ago, the original concept behind an exoskeleton competition was cultivated as an effort to join the creative ideas between Michigan State University and the University of Michigan.

Different tests involve a stair climb, a balance beam and a crouch test. The winner is determined based on how fast they can get through the obstacles, and the judges award points for which science they think would work best in the field of engineering.

“The competition is open to any university with a team manufacturing an exoskeleton suit that meets the rulebook qualifications,” Strength Augmenting Robotic Exoskeleton, or STARX, President Daniel Vance said in an email.  “Applications are usually gathered early in the school year, and regular communication is maintained between the hosting school and competing schools to confirm everyone is on track to put their suit through the competition.”

“It took them a year to figure out exactly what they wanted to create, but in the spring of 2018, the first ACE competition took place,” said Vance.

Therefore, not only did MSU help build the competition, but the university participated from the very start.

“The teams to compete at the first competition were MSU, U of M, and Colorado School of Mines,” Vance said. “Colorado took first place and from then on, it was a challenge to see who could build the most efficient exoskeleton suit. More and more schools became interested and planned to compete in the future.”

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However, COVID-19 put a pause on many plans and has not allowed a competition to be held since the Spring of 2019. 

“The MSU STARX Team decided last year that we were going to host the 2022 event,” Vance said. “This is our first time hosting and it is also the first competition to actually successfully take place in the past two years."

As of right now, STARX competitions are a university-run event and have not yet been adopted by a national organization. However, with the help of MSU faculty and students, Vance is hoping to draw more attention to the research being done by undergraduate students on exoskeleton suit technology.

The competition was a two-day event, taking place on Friday, May 20, and Saturday, May 21. 

The design review took place on Friday night, as revealed by the Electrical and Software Team Lead of STARX Michael Stevenson. Six judges from different industries were picked out, such as an MSU professor in Kinesiology. Participants showed the judges what their suits could do, and the judges asked questions about the suits to get an idea of how they ran. Scores were given based on which suits were designed the best and used the best modes of transportation and data acclamation.

Saturday was the big competition day where three different events took place.  

“One is an efficiency test,” Stevenson said. “We see how you walk with the suit versus not having the suit, and the whole point of the suit is to be able to add weight and not notice it at all."

There is no restriction on who can be a part of the event and all majors are welcome to compete and participate. The only requirement is that each team must have formal engineering faculty advisors assisting them throughout the building process to ensure that their exoskeleton suit is following safety guidelines and that the student pilots remain safe at all times.

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