MEC101 Robot Design Project

Mechanical Engineering, Stony Brook University, NY

Welcome to the MEC 101 COVID-19 Robot Design Project Web Site!

This page describes the project objectives, goals, and rules for the Robot Design project. We have created a set of Arduino programming tutorials, which you can refer to during Arduino programming. You will also find links to various internet resources that can help you with Arduino programming, robot building, electronics schematics, etc. Use the left navigation menu to get to the requisite section.


To design, build, and program a robot which would provide a gross motion function for assisting a person negatively affected by COVID-19.


  1. Problem: Identify a COVID-19 related problem for someone, which requires a solution. Problems can be wide-ranging, such as 1) a need to disinfect surfaces autonomously or wash hands to stop the spread of the virus, or 2) enabling postal workers to deliver a package or healthcare professionals to deliver medicines or send a temperature probe for contactless temperature monitoring, or 3) a teaching and entertainment tool to satisfy the social and emotional needs of a child affected by the social isolation. These are just a few examples of potential problems.

    A good problem statement is well-defined and tightly coupled with a situation specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. You will use design thinking approach to interview your clients for identifying a problem.

  2. Solution: Come up with potential solutions for the identified problem. Be careful not to mix the problem with the solution. Problem is generally unique and well-defined, but the solutions can be many. Problem comes from your client, but the solution comes from you. Thus, a problem statement should not have anything related to a robot, motors, or sensors. Your answer to the problem has to be a robotic solution, which can be fully autonomous, or fully remote-controlled, or hybrid.


This is the first year of this type of the robot design project. In the past, students designed other kinds of robots. You can go to and search for MEC101 Stony Brook and you will find hundreds of video demos of the robots that MEC101 students have created in the past. While these robots may not seem relevant to this year's project, I would like you to learn the possibilities of motions, sensor integration, and programming. While watching those videos, you will notice that many teams choose to embellish their projects with colors, lights, and shapes, which add to the aesthetic appeal of the project. I encourage you to use your artistic side in combination with the function.

Be Inspired!

See some robot demos from the past year.

Rules and Design Constraints

1. The Robot should produce a motion that can be termed as either useful or entertaining. The motion has to be visible from a distance of at least 5-10 ft. The robot should have at least some sensing capabilities, such as collision avoidance using ultrasonic sensor, infra-red for motion detection, light detection, camera, color sensing, etc. We will be learning about the sensors in the class.

2. There has to be a switch on board that when pressed will initiate the motion that should last no less than 30 seconds and no more than 60 seconds. Program it so that it comes to a stop at the end of 60 seconds.

3. The device can be wirelessly remotely controlled, however you may not touch it during its motion.

4. The motion produced has to be a safe one. It should not harm any bystanders or anything in its vicinity.

5. The device has to have an on-board battery that will be used to power the machine. You cannot connect it to an AC power outlet.

6. The structure of the machine has to be designed and put together by you, which means that you cannot buy a ready-made chassis or frame. The SnappyXO kit provided to you should be sufficient to put together most of your designs. However, if you can justify in your design that you need a certain part not in the SnappyXO kit, you can submit the design to us and we will laser-cut it for you that is if you can pick it up. However, we need at least two weeks of time before the Thanksgiving break to do any custom cutting. I will share the inventor parts files of the SnappyXO kit so that you can edit those files. You can also use 3D print files if you want to.

7. You can only buy components that cannot be easily designed and laser-cut, such as motors, any electronic parts, or a 3D Part that cannot be easily laser cut. Alternatively, you can also use Lego or Erector sets for building the structure of the machine, but self-designed and designs based on SnappyXO will get more points. Glue-guns should be used as a last resort as they will lead to point reduction. You should create your design such that you can assemble the planar pieces in the SnappyXO kit to realize your design. Hacks are strongly discouraged.

8. The robot has to be programmed using an Arduino microcontroller (Uno, Mega, nano, or any other ones).

9. The entire robot should fit in a box of size 1’x1’ x1’. If you need to create an environment to demo the robot, such as a maze, you can do that and will not count against the size of the robot. For certain robots, if approved by me, I can make an exception on the size.


The goal of this project is to motivate you to think about designing and prototyping programmable, electro-mechanical devices at an early stage of your engineering career. In doing so, you begin to appreciate the importance of learning fundamentals in a fun and exciting design context while also learning to communicate ideas and working in a team.

A simple wheeled-robot with an uninteresting motion even if equipped with some sensory capabilities is a bad choice for this project. I have already given you a two-wheeled drive robot, so you can’t just slap some sensors on it and call it a project. A few bad examples: a light seeking or avoiding robot, an obstacle avoiding robot either via bumpers or ultrasonic sensors. Unless you are doing major value addition, such as may be adding a claw functionality to grab something or transforming a wheeled robot into a walking one for uneven terrain, the project would be a bad one and will not be approved. On the other hand, adding simple sensing functionality on more complex motions, such as walking is fine.