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6.270 Robots to Battle Today

Chun Hua Zheng -- The Tech
Joshua D. Kaufman '00 and Dharmesh Mehta '99 prepare their robot, "I am Tiger Woods," for tonight's RoboGolf competition in 26-100.

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

Contestants in this year's 6.270 Autonomous Robot Competition breathed a sigh of exhaustion yesterday evening in Room 38-600 as their robots were impounded for today's contest.

Following just over three weeks of building and testing, teams began qualifying Monday night. The two-round competition will be held today in Room 26-100.

Because 50 teams are participating in this year's contest, up from 40 a year ago, a preliminary round of competition will take place this morning at 11 a.m. in 26-100.

The final round of competition begins at 6 p.m. in 26-100. Organizers recommend arriving before 5:30 to gain a seat in the room.

Because the normal overflow room, 34-101, is being used for another lecture, overflow space will not be available this year. However, the contest will be professionally broadcast on MITCable, Channel 8.

This year's contest, entitled "RoboGolf," challenges robots to pick up and drop foam balls from various places on the competition table.

Machines are allowed to start the contest holding up to 18 balls, which they can then attempt to drop into the holes located on the board. Teams can also score points by collecting the neutral balls located around the game board.

Rules discourage attack robots

The rules and competition board are designed to discourage "attack robots," said Edwin W. Foo '98, one of the contest organizers. Vertical drops of two inches at several locations on the board are designed to make it difficult for robots to actively pursue other robots.

However, several robots have been seen pursuing their opponents successfully, Foo said. "There are a few that do very interesting things."

Over the past few days, teams have been working to get their robots to qualify. During that process, "I have seen a lot of robots crippled" as teams disable the more advanced features in favor producing a working machine, Foo said. "The simpler designs are doing the best."

Still, there are "quite a few good robots" continuing into tomorrow's competition, Foo said. "We have a lot of very high-scoring robots that score points by picking up and dropping"the foam balls.

Team success during the preliminary rounds does not necessarily turn into success during the competition, Foo said. "Last year's winner qualified by blind luck" after completely flipping over during the qualifying round, yet it performed perfectly during the final round.

"It will be very exciting once we get to the final rounds," Foo said.

Students breathe sigh of relief

Teams that succeeded in scoring points during the final few minutes before impoundment expressed their relief at having qualified for the competition.

Those who won their qualification round will enter the double-elimination tournament with no losses. Other qualifiers will enter with a loss.

The "Campus Safe Ride" team, including Menoj D. Muzumdar '98, qualified after successfully grabbing a set of balls off the board. The team had to make many changes over the past night, including changing their geartrain and other mechanics.

Meanwhile, the team including Kenric S. Leung '98 just squeaked by to qualify for the competition by chewing up one ball before slamming into one of the support braces. The team made about 20 revisions to the software code of its robot, "The Peculiar Pineapple Picker," since Monday's rounds.

Between impoundment and the competition, the organizers encourage the teams to "call their friends and tell them to watch, charge their batteries" and sleep, Foo said.