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6.270 Dominated by ‘Victor Brar’

By Jennifer Krishnan


“Victor Watson Brar,” the robot created by Kenneth J. Jensen ’03 and Rhett Creighton ’02, dominated the field and won this years 6.270 Autonomous Robot Competition.

“We were really excited,” Creighton said. “We had a really fast robot.” Many of the other robots were “good proofs of concepts,” but they needed more time, he said.

Jensen said their strategy was to “keep it simple, stupid.”

When their imminent victory became clear, Jensen and Creighton celebrated by stripping off their Junkyard Wars jumpsuits. Creighton continued by tearing off his T-shirt and smashing his robot.

“Victor Watson Brar” featured an attacker, which ran much faster than most of the other robots, attached to the main body of their robot by a wire. The attacker moved quickly to the opponent’s side of the table, blocking any motion by the other robot.

“I don’t see how, if their robot works, how we can actually beat it,” said Yuran Lu ’05, just before his team faced “Victor” in the final round.

‘Kamikaze Puppy’ gets ovation

But it was “Kamikaze Puppy,” created by Lu, Jaime Lien ’05, and Shuang You ’05, that earned a standing ovation from Thursday night’s crowd.

“Kamikaze Puppy” successfully placed a ball on the island in the “lava pit,” a feat attempted by few and accomplished by no others that evening, though two other robots managed the task in Round 1 earlier that week.

Lu said the team was gratified by the applause “The first two rounds we basically won by luck,” Lu said. “We hoped to actually get it in the cup so people would see what our robot would actually do.”

Points hard to come by

Scores were low in this year’s contest, and several of the matches ended with neither robot scoring any points, recorded as a loss for both teams.

Even the robots created by MIT alumni from Microsoft and Analog Devices, pitted against each other during an intermission, failed to score.

“A lot of people underestimated how hard it would be just to grab and move a ball,” Creighton said.

“At first, when I got the packet describing the set-up, I thought it looked like it was going to be kind of easy, [and] that the strategy would be easier than last year,” Lu said.

But when they got to building it, the “practicalities of getting the robot up and down the hill and into the cup [made it] actually pretty difficult,” he said.

Contestants laid part of the blame on the size of the balls. Lu estimated that the balls this year were “about 50 percent larger” than those used in last year’s 6.270 contest, and Creighton said balls were “larger and more massive” than those used in the annual 2.007 contest.

Robot, team unconventional

Before the final round began, Creighton explained to the audience that upon receiving the contest specification, he and Jensen had immediately built their own practice table.

Creighton said this proved to be advantageous toward the end of the month, when demand for the two practice tables was high.

“Victor” also went faster, Jensen said, because they ran it off the Handy Board, which ran off a nine-volt battery, instead of using the larger, lower-voltage Hawker batteries recommended by the teaching assistants.

Jensen had initially been opposed to running the attacker off the Handy Board’s power, but Creighton made the change while Jensen was asleep, Creighton said.

In the process, “I blew up the Handy Board” and had to get a new one, Creighton said.

“Victor” did not initially qualify for the contest. “Basically, the only thing that could go wrong was that the wire could get tangled,” and it did in the first round, Creighton said.

(“Victor Watson Brar,” the name of Creighton and Jensen’s robot, is also the name of Creighton’s running mate for the Undergraduate Association leadership last year, Victor W. Brar ’04.)

Hill posed challenge this year

The playing field was a “three-tiered hill,” according to the contest program. At the start of each round, four white balls and four green balls were positioned on the highest plateau, and the robots started on the middle plateau. While the positions of the balls were always the same, each team chose the color arrangement of the balls closest to the other team.

Robots scored by moving balls of their assigned color either to the middle plateau or into a cup with a two-inch-high rim, located on the lowest plateau.

Contests nothing new for top team

Creighton and Jensen are no stranger to contests. Creighton appeared on Junkyard Wars and won one episode.

Creighton also competed in both 2.007 and 2.670, winning the latter.

“But I don’t think anyone has won the triple crown” of 2.007, 6.270, and 2.670, he said.