2005-04-20

IEEE Robot Competition

The weekend before last, I had a chance to attend a Robot competition held by the regional IEEE group.
The competition was organized by the head of the Denver Robot Club.
Interestingly enough, he mentioned this competition a number of months ago at a really small meeting of the Denver Robot Club. He asked if anyone had any idea. I held back a little bit, giving others a chance to speak their minds.
Then I brought up an idea I had toyed with for a while - a robot warehouse. I wondered if I could do it with Lego Mindstorms. But I added a twist to my suggestion - I suggested that the robots should get orders about what work it should do.
Well it turns out they used my idea! So I had to go see how it worked!
At first they were going to do shelves too - but it was decided that was a bit too hard. Just as well - it turned out to be a pretty tough problem without the shelves.
They used standard radio-modems for the dispatch system.
The course was 8 rooms - 4 from-rooms, and 4 to-rooms, with a track down the middle with codes to help locate the position and direction.
The third level of the challenge also included warehouse 'workers' - Barbies on stands. Not only did the robots have to avoid hitting them, they had to not be fooled by the dolls when going after the targets. The targets were modified soda cans, partially ballasted.
It was exciting to see the robots attempting the challenge!
I was sorry to see that a lot of robots seemed to not do so well with the communications. The truth is, out of about 25 or so teams, only 4 or 5 robots really show the full set of skills needed on the course. None of them were able to consistently handle the course - but you could tell that the teams were working hard on many last minute modifications.
See My Roboton Blog for pictures from the meet.

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