Imagine scanning the beach for lost treasures using a robot instead of a clunky hand-held metal detector.

The dream to lounge on the beach while a robot does all the work hunting for coins and jewelry inspired Joshua Haley and his three teammates to build Knight Sweeper 4200, a UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) Senior Design project that recently won the People’s Choice Award in a national Texas Instruments (TI) student electrical engineering design contest.

More than 500 students from 40 universities in the United States and Canada participated. Ultimately, 12 teams including UCF’s presented their projects to a panel of distinguished TI employees and guest judges in the Dallas, Texas final competition.

At 12 inches tall, the Knight Sweeper 4200 is an autonomous vehicle about the size of a laptop computer. It’s capable of detecting metallic objects as small as a key from three-inches away, all while avoiding obstacles during its route of navigation. Once the vehicle detects an object, it identifies the GPS coordinates and transmits the location back to the user.

While searching for treasure was the original idea, Haley said that the Knight Sweeper 4200 can expand its capabilities to finding buried explosives on dirt roads in combat areas.

Knight Sweeper 4200 includes a GPS module, compass module, serial camera, wireless radio frequency module, ultrasonic sensors and a metal detecting circuit. Any metal that will change the magnetic permittivity inside the local magnetic field can be detected, including gold, silver, aluminum, steel, copper, and many more metals.

Haley graduated from UCF this past spring with a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering. Teammates Jerard Jose, Phong Le and Brandon Reeves are UCF spring graduates with bachelor’s degrees in electrical engineering. They built Knight Sweeper 4200 in UCF’s Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS) Senior Design Lab during their senior year.

“The success of Knight Sweeper is a testament to the ingenuity of UCF’s electrical engineering students,” said Samuel Richie, a UCF professor of electrical and computer engineering and the team’s senior design advisor. “The senior design experience is a critical -– and often inspirational -– component of engineering education at UCF.”

Incorporating some humor in their project, the team intentionally used “4200” in the robot’s name.

“Those familiar with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe know that 42 is the answer to ‘The Ultimate Question of Life,’ the universe and everything,” Haley said.