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With a Week Left, 6.270 Robots Near Completion


Thomas R. Karlo--The Tech
Laurel A. Schaider '97 and Wandy Sae-tan '97 test a sensor on their robot Tuesday evening on one of the contest tables in the 6.270 laboratory.

By Thomas R. Karlo
Contributing Editor

With only a week remaining until the qualifying round of the 6.270 Autonomous Lego Robot Design Competition, competing teams are now testing nearly complete robots in the class laboratory.

With the robots now being tested on the competition tables, the variety of strategies that are being used is evident.As organizers hoped, there are a good number of robots that will attempt to race for the center of the board, where many points can be scored. "There's going to be a lot of contact this year," said Michael S. Allen '97, an organizer. "A lot of people are interested in the blocks in the center."

The board was designed to avoid the domination of any one strategy. "While one strategy might beat another, there's going to be some other strategy that can beat the first," Allen said. Despite the emphasis on controlling the center of the board, there have been "surprisingly few aggressive robots." Organizers hope that by increasing contact and other interaction between the robots, they can make the contest more exciting to watch.

For teams, the organizers' choice to provide prebuilt processor boards seems to have been a good decision. "We could just start using it,"Laurel A. Schaider '97 said. "We're pretty much where we want to be."

Other teams shared this sentiment. "It's been less stressful than they made it out to be,"said Brian D. Hoffman '97.For Hoffman and his teammate Eric Pop '98, the biggest obstacle so far has been running out of Lego blocks while they build their vehicle. Their robot, which is nearly complete, will try to avoid the opposing robot while picking up blocks around the table.

Organizers ran into a problem this week when trying to obtain the foam blocks that robots seek to capture during the contest. When they were unable to obtain the foam they planned to use, they were forced to use a different type that proved more difficult to cut and drill to the necessary specifications. "We're working on ways to make the blocks better," Allen said. The shape of the blocks is critical for robots trying to pick them up during the competition.

For Allen, this is his first year as an organizer. The organizers are responsible for planning, coordinating, and managing the class. Allen estimated he has worked 60 hours over the last week. "It gets to be a bit much,"he said. But in the end, he does it for the same reason many competitors and teaching assistants do - "Iget to play with Lego again."

Allen anticipates an unusually exciting competition this year, because of both the jump competitors got from the prebuilt boards and the rules of the competition, which change each year. Some participants have designed robots that steal from an opponent's side, go for the center of the board, or try to grab the blocks in the center from one of paths along the side of the playing fields, in addition to a number of other unique strategies.

"There's quite a good variety of strategies," Allen said.