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‘Don’t Worry’ Captures 6.270 in Nail-Biter

Annual Competition Lasts Four Hours

By Brian Loux


In one of the most grueling finals ever, spanning four hours of competition, Don’t Worry, created by Brian Lin ’01 and Fred S. Lee ’01, narrowly defeated Maximus, designed by Sameer R. Dhond ’01, David S. Bailey ’02, and Eric A. Dauler ’02, to claim the 6.270 Autonomous Robot Design Competition crown.

The last two robots, Don’t Worry and Maximus, were amazingly similar, boasting the same programming tactics, the same mechanical design, and even the same color.

This year’s game, “Masters of the Universe,” pitted two robots against each other and was played in a rectangular arena divided into two sides, with a raised platform in the middle. Each round started with two rubber balls on each side of the arena and one on the central platform. If the ball on the platform was moved, two reserve balls rolled down separately from above the arena and landed on the platform. The robots tried to move as many balls as possible to their respective sides of the arena, and at the end of one minute, the robot with more balls on its side won.

Both Don’t Worry and Maximus used the same strategy, attempting to hit balls from the central platform to their side of the arena, grabbing the two balls that started on the opponent’s side, and then quickly trying to pin the slower robots if they tried to venture onto their side.

Three advance to round robin

The early rounds left many teams disappointed. The Zekrit Ninja Phatapult with a unique ball-launching strategy survived for only two rounds, when its lack of speed caught up with it. However, during a break the contest organizers presented its designers with an award for ingenuity.

Similarly, crowd-pleasing robots like Murphy’s Plow of Doom, which pushed balls out of the arena, and Kirpal the Autonomous Rickshaw, which placed balls inside its own construction and then lifted a gate to let them out, dropped out in the later rounds. Murphy was pinned by the eventual champion Don’t Worry and in a desperate sumo match was unable to push Don’t Worry back far enough. Kirpal met up with The Desi G Ride, which extended across the entire playing field, and could not push past its arms.

“We were fan favorites not due to ability but because of our originality,” said Alan T. Asbeck ’02, one of the creators of Murphy’s Plow of Doom.

“Really the tournament came down to a lot of luck. We were really there to enjoy the class and have fun, so nothing was lost,” added his teammate Matt Alaniz ’01.

In the end, the final three robots were Don’t Worry, Maximus, and Minimax.

Minimax was designed by two freshmen, David Signoff ’04, and Steven M. Stern ’04, and Andrew M. Starr ’02. “We were completely shocked we came so far, even surprised we qualified,” they said. “We were even more proud that we got through without one all-nighter or killing each other.” They named their robot after their friend Max, who helped them get through the tournament.

Maximus was named “because we initially wanted to design a robot that was tough ... plus we wanted a name the crowd could cheer,” the team said.

Don’t Worry was named “because I was always worried we would never get it done,” Lin said. “We always started work at 10 p.m., after Fred did his UROP work, and we felt like we had nothing at the start of the third week [due to constant strategy and design changes.] So Fred kept saying, ‘don’t worry, it’ll work’ whenever I was displeased with our progress. We also said it 50 times during the competition.”

Top two teams meet four times

Scores were cleared at the beginning of the double elimination round robin. In the first of these rounds, Maximus whacked a ball from the central platform to its side as Minimax scrambled to Maximus’s side. Both robots were unable to obtain any other balls, so the win went to Maximus 3-2. In the next match, with Maximus pitted against Don’t Worry, the ball on the platform went to Maximus, and each robot captured the other’s two balls, but with a little luck a top ball fell onto Don’t Worry’s side, resulting in a tie. The next match between Don’t Worry and Minimax brought the curtain down for Minimax as Don’t Worry quickly pinned Minimax in the corner for its second loss.

The next two matches between Don’t Worry and Maximus were replicas of their earlier one, first with Don’t Worry getting the platform ball and Maximus with the lucky dropped ball, and then with roles reversed in the following round. Finally, in their fourth match, the platform ball went to Don’t Worry, but the two top balls remained on the platform, giving Don’t Worry a 3-2 win and the championship.

“We were very happy with how well we did,” said Maximus’s team. “We all wanted to have a good time and design a robot that we could be proud of. We did that.”

Looking over the whole competition, the victors Lin and Lee said that “we liked the board this year since it was simple, yet had its own engineering challenges, since the ball was so big and heavy. There were a lot of issues with power and speed which were more exciting than the ability to sort blocks ... I am just glad that the audience had fun and that we gave them some good entertainment.”

Contest draws varied crowd

Room 26-100 was a full house Thursday night, even requiring an overflow room for robot fans. Professor Edward J. Moriarty of the Edgerton center, who also teaches a high school robotics class, brought his two sons Tommy and Peter and their two friends Zack Nestel-Patt and Alex Van Dijck from Lexington. “I used to be in charge of the [Electrical Engineering and Computer Science] academic administration and pretty much managed [6.270],” said Professor Moriarty. Moriarty applauded the designers of the competition for excellent organization.

Moriarty said he was as always impressed with the robot design, even the placebos. The children all agreed that “The robots are cool!” with Zack favoring Wapos, Peter backing DP, and Tommy and Alex favoring The Desi G Ride.

The robotics team from Luden Middle School was there for the first half of the tournament. After the first round of the evening, team leader Richard Fisher introduced his robot and team, who were state champions of the middle school level this year. “We were going to show you our programs, but after we learned about your tournament, we knew we had to try,” said Fisher.

The modified state champion pushed two platform balls to its side to defeat the three-legged placebo robot 4-2, bringing the crowd to its feet. The team said they one day hope to return and compete in 6.270 for real when their time comes.

Members of a team from Microsoft, composed of Michael C. Koss ’83, Yabing Chu, and Fei Chua, were also there as onlookers, and they too provided entertainment during another break. They debuted their own robot, which they had created over three weeks. “We too put in a lot of time ... and when we thought that we were 90 percent done we were only about 25 percent done,” Koss told the crowd.

Their robot was unable to fetch any balls during its match, and they were later used as a placebo in a round against Minimax. In that round, Microsoft’s robot went for the platform and proceeded to flip over, allowing for an easy win for Minimax. “Looks like control-alt-delete to me!” said Soraya M. Scroggins ’04.