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Robotics at SIUE

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The SIUE School of Engineering faculty and students organize several robotics mini camps and visit middle schools each year to talk about the importance of robots in our lives. The workshops, along with the regional botball competition held on campus each year, intrigue hundreds of young people interested in pursuing careers in engineering.

SIUE’s Annual Botball Tournament Showcases Creative Young Minds

Middle and high school students engaged their minds and their robots on Saturday, April 25 when Southern Illinois University Edwardsville hosted its annual Botball tournament. This was the 18th Botball season and the 13th year that SIUE hosted the region’s tournament.

The event, coordinated through the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics, pits teams against one another in two-minute rounds. A team’s student-created robot must demonstrate its ability to perform a number of tasks worth varying points. The regional competition is open to the public and typically draws approximately 150 spectators with teams from Illinois, Missouri, Indiana and Arkansas.

The game board changes each year around a central theme. This year’s theme was prospecting in the New Mexico desert. Robot tasks included scientific quests such as collecting minerals, sorting them, and moving the collected minerals to analysis areas.

The robots built and programmed by the students were autonomous—traveling around the game board on their own, trying to earn as many points as possible within each two-minute round. Significant challenges of the competition board this year included a number of the higher-scoring items being positioned at high elevations and partitioned sides separated by a narrow “cave” of gold ore, with only a narrow space connecting each of them.

“Teams did extremely well this year,” said Gary Mayer, PhD, and assistant professor of computer science in the SIUE School of Engineering and the event organizer. “A large number of teams were successful at scoring the harder to get points. But they didn’t dominate. Teams racked up a lot of wins by being able to complete the simpler tasks consistently, too. This made for some truly interesting matches.

This year’s competition was won by the Rolla Regional Robotics team from St. James, Mo.

In addition to competition and documentation awards, teams are also given trophies and awards for demonstrating various aspects of their teaming abilities and robot design and implementation concepts.

The Spirit of Botball went to Edwardsville High School who not only loaned a camera to a middle school team, but they also helped them with the code to use it.

The Keep It Simple Student (KISS) award went to the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, from Hot Springs, Ark., for the its simple and balanced offensive and defensive strategy and design.

Rolla Regional Robotics also claimed the Overall Judge’s Choice for solid design and programming of an effective bucket system that could consistently pull in points, along with their excellent teamwork and great t-shirt design.

[IMAGE: Botball Tournament SIUE 2015]

SIUE School of Engineering Hosts the 2014 Annual Greater St. Louis Botball Tournament
Middle and high school students engaged their minds and robots on Saturday, April 12 when 21 teams competed in the annual Greater St. Louis Botball Tournament at SIUE. Before a crowd of more than 150, teams challenged one another in two-minute rounds to perform a number of assistive robotics tasks.

Building on last year’s theme of a Mars Sample Return Mission, the robots had to help Botguy, the competition’s mascot, recover from the long journey in space. The students built autonomous robots that traveled around a game board earning points with four goals to accomplish in two-minute rounds:

  • Assist Botguy with gross motor tasks by moving exercise equipment in bins
  • Hang hangers on various height racks
  • Remove items stored on shelves
  • Move an exercise bench over to a physical therapy area and place Botguy on the bench

“Each year, we try and define some unique, challenging tasks that allow both the novice teams and those with more experience to succeed by scoring in the competition,” said Dr. Gary Mayer, assistant professor of computer science in the SIUE School of Engineering and the event organizer. “This year, it was the hangers. Many teams answered the challenge and were consistently successful in earning points.

“As an educator, it’s a great thing to see, and everyone should be proud of what these students accomplished.”

Botball teams score equally in three categories of documentation, seeding rounds and the double elimination tournament. In each category, teams earn a score of 0.0 to 1.0. The Daniela Rus team from Wabash Valley in Terre Haute, Ind. won the competition with a total score of 2.930 out of the possible 3.0.

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