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‘Paco Lopez’ Captures ‘Gold’ in Grueling 6.270 Finals

By Amerson Lin

“Paco Lopez” triumphed over “Keep Your Eye on the Gold Chain” and “Smash & Grab” to win this year’s Autonomous Robot Design Competition (6.270) last Thursday in 26-100.

The competition was charged with tension, especially in the last two rounds where the evenly matched finalists, “Paco Lopez,” “Keep Your Eye on the Gold Chain,” and “Smash & Grab” were caught up in a round robin that resulted in a two-point victory for “Paco Lopez.”

Alexis R. Disieno ’05, Brian K. Foote ’05, and Patrick L. Korb ’05, the “Paco Lopez” team, used what they called a process of trial and error to decide on a strategy which allowed them to elevate balls over obstacles.

“We also watched footage from past competitions to decide on our winning strategy,” Disieno said. They initially wanted to attack their opponents, but later felt that they would sacrifice too much in doing so.

This year’s task was to collect colored balls and place them into holes on the playing field. Underneath the holes stood tubes, and the point value of each ball depended on its height in the tube.

Runners-up proud of their work

Benjamin P. Walker ’03, Jeremy Z. Walker ’04 and Paul K. Youn ’03, members of Smash & Grab, felt that they were extremely fortunate reach the final round. Their robot featured a mini-car that would detach itself and move to block the opponent’s hole. Suffering a slight malfunction in the round robin, the team felt the problem could have happened at an time and thus considered themselves lucky to reach the final round.

Team 31, “Keep Your Eye on the Gold Chain,” comprised of Matt N. Stolbach ’02, Maxwell E. Planck ’04 and Arthur T. Mak ’05, was the third team to make it to the last round of the competition. “No team can expect to come this far,” Mak said. “Having done so, we were overjoyed.”

“The fun and learning we had from the competition was more than worth the time we spent on it,” Stolbach said.

Length of competition a factor

Thursday’s final round lasted for more than four hours, but nevertheless 26-100 was packed as usual as students cheered on their friends. Todd Wager, a residential advisor from the Chi Phi fraternity, said, “I’m just here to give moral support to my two teams.”

Because of its length, the competition became something of a survival of the fittest toward the end, as robots started to show signs of circuit board failure and fatigue. It was mainly due to the fact that the batteries were drained and at times contestants did not have sufficient time in between rounds to recharge.

The mock competition and preliminary rounds, which were held earlier in the week, definitely helped participants and organizers to fine-tune their robots and rules to allow for an exciting finale. From feedback based on the preliminary round, the organizers decided to add another rule that would give allowance to cases where balls were stuck around the hole. In such a situation, the score would be counted as though the balls had gone through the hole.

Similarly, many teams changed their strategies based on the performance of the other robots during the preliminary round. Dacheng Zhao ’03, from the team “Balls Out,” said that his team decided to switch from a strategy of getting four balls in quickly to one where their robot would get the two easiest balls in first and then move on immediately to prevent their opponent from scoring. On the other hand, teams with robots that performed relatively well such as “Lego My Eggo” decided to stick with their initial plan and hope for the best, with consistency being their winning strategy.

Robots entertain crowd

This year’s 6.270 competition was not just a display of intellect and strategy but also a showcase of creativity and humor. The placebo robots entertained the crowd as usual, with a dancing robot and a walking chicken/Yoda delighting the audience. In another demonstration, “Tricyclotops,” the brainchild of Billy F. Waldman ’ 05 and Andrew T. Marsh ’02, was brought back into the playing field because it featured one of the most interesting locomotion systems of the contest. Their robot could lie down, spin around and even do a flip. It was knocked out of the competition in an earlier round due to servo failure, but organizers felt that it deserved to be displayed to the audience.

The organizers also awarded a prize for their favorite robot, team 29’s “Stupid Chicken.” Sean Lie ’03, Steven Chan ’03, and Buddhika N. Kottahachchi ’02 made a robot that would get the two easiest balls in the goal quickly, and then head to the center of the the ramp to release two rollers that would block the holes to the tubes. “I was thankful that my contraption finally worked when it mattered,” Chan said.

In another match between “Twitchy & Scratchy” and “Smash & Grab,” the robots ended up in what audience member Matthew J. Webber ’05 described as a “bizarre mating dance.” The two robots, both featuring smaller “baby bots” that would detach themselves and head towards the opponent’s side to block the hole, ended up in a writhing mess because wires extending from both vehicles became entangled.