Technology tourists hitch rides around campuses

Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology students create HitchBOTs MARIETTA‚ Ga. (Dec….

Georgia (Dec 14, 2015)Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology students create HitchBOTs

MARIETTA‚ Ga. (Dec. 14, 2015) — Friendly looking robots mysteriously showed up around the Kennesaw and Marietta campuses during fall semester, but their goal was to stay on the move with a little help from Kennesaw State students, faculty and staff.

These hitchhiking robots, called “HitchBOTs,” were created by Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology (ECET) students as part of a Design Fundamentals course in the Southern Polytechnic College of Engineering and Engineering Technology.

The HitchBOT mission: Communicate with humans to make their way from the Marietta Campus to the Kennesaw Campus, and back again.

Directions were provided on each HitchBOT’s screen or body so students would know the robot’s next desired location.  Whether a student would give the HitchBOT a lift to its destination was part of the unpredictability in human/computer interaction.

Six HitchBOTs were created, with names such as Botman, Screech, Babybot and Alfred HitchBOT. Some made it to the Sturgis Library, one made it to President Daniel S. Papp’s Kennesaw Campus office and another was detained by campus police.

“The ECET curriculum is about more than technology,” said Scott Larisch, assistant professor of ECET, who teaches the introduction design fundamentals course.  “It’s about how technology interacts with humans and how humans interact with technology.  At KSU, we have a unique offering of technical and humanities programs.  Here, students don’t just study technology in a vacuum.” 

Using minimal materials, students worked in small groups to design and build HitchBOTs that entice humans and have a personable nature.

“Our HitchBOT had to be appealing, intriguing and engaging,” explained student Nicholas Ray.  With a $300 budget, students considered durability, weather resistance, energy usage and its interactivity in their designs.

HitchBOTs ranged from minimally simplistic to more high-tech. Power needs were served with built-in batteries or solar panels, and many included GPS, cameras, thumb drives and SIM cards. With the technology, students could easily track their HitchBOTs with data logging and GPS capabilities, as well as keep tabs on battery power.

For the first-semester students in the course at the Marietta Campus, their greatest challenge was their inexperience, explained Larisch. Many did not know how to code, or program, and some had never used power tools before taking the course.

The HitchBOTs unleashed on campus led to some interesting educational experiences, as much for the students who encountered the strange-looking bots. 

“As a STEM campus, our students are naturally drawn to technology.  We found that this was not necessarily true on the Kennesaw campus,” said Larisch, who explained that students learn best by doing and engaging with the public. “Our students not only learn technology, they learn how technology is used for social benefit.” 


- Tiffany Capuano; photos provided by William Payson


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit