Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sumo Robot Competition, 12/21/2015

On Monday night, sixteen teams of excited middle school students gathered in "The Pit" at Morse High School, robots in hand, ready to go head-to-head in the Sumo ring.  Each team spent two months designing, building, programming, testing, troubleshooting and debugging these robots.
The robots were all made from LEGO Mindstorms kits, and had to fit within a nine inch square space and weigh no more than 32 ounces.  

The objective of the Sumo Robot competition is simple:  be the first robot to push your competitor out of the ring without falling out yourself.   Each successful ejection of an opponent's robot earns the winner 3 points, each tie (robots are tangled and not moving, both fall out at the same time, etc.) earns each team 1 point, and a loss earns 0 points.  The first team with 5 points wins the bout.  

Each of the robots uses an ultrasonic sensor to locate its opponent.  These are the glowing red circles that look like eyes.  They send out a high frequency sound signal and listen for it to bounce off an object.  Once a threshold is set, the cpu will go towards the object once it is sensed.

  The sumo rings, built by me and a couple of my skilled neighbors out of salvaged plywood, are designed very specifically.  The rings have a diameter of 39.5 inches.  The center of the playing surface is black and non-reflective, and the outer edge is painted glossy white.  The robots all use color sensors to avoid falling out of the ring.  These sensors are able to detect the color white (by analyzing wavelengths) or changes in light reflectivity, sending a message to the cpu to interrupt the program and stop forward motion when a certain threshold is met.

 It was pretty cool to see the array of programs that the different teams created. Some used switches ("if" statements), and all of them used loops.  In the same way that writing is really about revision, programming is really about debugging.  Each team spent a lot of time refining their original programs to make the robots behave in the way the designers imagined.

After an hour and a half, all the bouts were completed and we had a winner (NaCl), a second place bot (Robocop), and a third place bot (Bitty Billy).  Even though this was a double elimination event, we were caught up in the excitement of the moment, and neglected to have the winner of the winners' bracket do two bouts  with the winner of the loser's bracket.  So officially, we decided that NaCl and Robocop tied for first place.  

It was a great evening and, as you can see in the photos, the kids were engaged.  I am grateful to The George Davenport Trust for giving us the grant to buy these kits, and to the teachers and administrators of RSU 1 who support this kind of programming for our students.  Whether or not these kids grow up to be engineers, the lessons learned through this kind of experience build brain cells and make learning joyful.  And you can't ask for more than that.

SUMO-BOT 12/21/2015 RESULTS*

First Place: Robocop

Second Place: NaCl

Third Place: Bitty Billy

Fourth Place: The Project That Doesn’t Work

Fifth Place Tie: Bacon Bot Junior and Batman

Seventh Place Tie:  Chicken Avenger and Soulless Ginger

9th Place Tie:  Robodozer, Accident, Chicken Slaughterer Junior, Savage

13th Place Tie:  Mac Daddy Supreme, Turtle, Vex, Contact

*We made an error and didn't have NaCl and Robocop do their final bout during the tournament.  Mr. Seymour and I ran the two bots after the tournament, and Robocop won.  Since this was our mistake, both NaCl and Robocop will receive first place trophies, but Robocop is the official champion.

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