Sunday, May 13, 2007

Wall To Wall BotBall

Every weekend this month, my son has some sort of activity related to school. My son takes a class where they compete in several local robotics competitions. Pictures from all of these are in this Flickr set.

Because of all of these activities back to back, wife is calling May Nerd Month. This week, we spent all day Saturday at Ritchie Coliseum at the University of Maryland College Park watching my son’s school compete at the regional BotBall competition. For those of you familiar with BattleBots and other Discovery Channel staples, BotBall is the tamer high school cousin. Each year the organizers come up with a bizarre scenario and then teams of kids have to build and program robots to perform the tasks.

This year’s challenge was based on some pineapple plantation motif where the robots among other things had to do any or all of the following to score points:
  • Put cocktail drink umbrellas in little pieces of plastic pipe.
  • Move the plastic pipes into the back area of the field.
  • Put yellow and green fuzzballs into yellow and green cups.
  • Put large blue rubber balls into the cups.
  • Protect the field from orange puffballs that get dropped on the field.
For a full description, you can watch this video.

My son’s team focused on the first two tasks. They had another robot that was a fuzzball sweeper, but it wasn’t quite ready for primetime. As the video shows, the robot does a pretty good job with the pipes and the umbrellas.

By focusing on doing one thing well, the robot was able to advance to the Sweet Sixteen from a field of 42. My second video shows two of the best teams in the semi-finals. The team on the right won because they got both blue balls in the cups even though the other team deflected some of "lava" puffballs.

Nerd Month continues next week as the Rocketry Club goes to the TARC nationals to compete amongst a hundred teams from around the country. More video and pictures to come.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: Robots – lame, awesome, or scary?


Jeff and Charli Lee said...

We got my son one of those Mark III PIC robot kits for Christmas last year. He whipped it together in about a day and had it following a black line the next day. Pretty cool stuff. After that he moved on to something else and now it's sitting on his dresser.

I think if he was in a club he'd be more interested but as it stands, nobody else really seemed to give a hoot. Except for me.

Mooselet said...

They are awesomely scary, or scarily awesome. But definitely not lame.