The Virginia Tech AgBot team clinched first place in the third annual AgBot Challenge May 19 at Gerrish Farms in Rockville, Indiana, earning a top award of $30,000.
The 2018 event, hosted by Gerrish Farms and airBridge LLC, was broken into two separate challenges – weed and feed, and harvesting – with university and industry teams competing head-to-head for $100,000 in prizes.
Virginia Tech’s team won the watermelon harvesting challenge by creating an autonomous system that could identify, sort, and harvest ripe watermelons in a field. Each team in the harvesting competition was scored in mechanics, software, innovativeness of their solution, and execution of their solution.
To build a harvester and the autonomous vehicle that pulls it, two separate teams were formed. A mechanical engineering senior design team designed and built the harvester and a special studies team responsible for the autonomous vehicle that towed the harvester. As team lead, Hongxu “Howard” Guo, a double major in mechanical and electrical engineering, worked on both teams, coordinating the work of the two groups’ 14 people.