Mosaic / February 29, 2012

Robot smack-down in SMC

The E-wing of the Umbeck Science and Mathematics Center (SMC) was transformed into a robot battleground as three tiny transformers wrought by student hands competed in the tenth annual Sumo++ Challenge.

There were two events in the competition this past Tuesday, Feb. 21. The first was the traditional Sumo challenge, where two robots fight to push each other out of the ring during a three-minute showdown.

The second event, recently incorporated to add more finesse to the competition, was the timed Sumo. In this event, the robots, equipped with ultra-sonic sensors, had to push a weighted soda can out of the small circular ring in the shortest amount of time.

Professors, local elementary school students and teams of robot programmers watched intently as the robots used their small plastic claws and tires to slowly push each other out of the ring during the traditional Sumo battle.

Professor and Chair of Computer Science John Dooley tallied the victories on the chalkboard and provided commentary for the spectators.

Robot “Sexy Sam,” brought to life by sophomores Andrei Papancea and Avinab Rajbhandary, emerged victorious in the traditional Sumo challenge while Robot “1996,” named after a first email address and built by sophomores Andrew Cook, Evan Balzuweit and Tom Carr, won the timed Sumo event.

The competition was fierce. “Robotie,” built by the youngest challenger, Professor of Biology Stuart Allison’s daughter, Gwendalyn, proved to be a tough competitor in the timed Sumo challenge with her robot moving the can in fewer than 11 seconds.

Each machine, constructed using Lego Mindstorm kits, requires no remote control. The teams must use their own problem-solving skills to come up with a strategy for their robot in battle and then program their creation using Lego software.

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Jaime Spacco, who served as timekeeper at the event, said that one certainly doesn’t need to be a SMC regular to participate in robot building.

“Coming up with strategy is something every Knox student can relate to,” Spacco said. “Although programming experience certainly makes it easier.”

In fact, team “1996,” the winners of the timed Sumo challenge, included a creative writing major.

All of the participants will receive certificates for their participation. When asked how he was going to celebrate his big win, Papancea said, “I will probably go to the Gizmo.”

Anna Casey

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