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Convertible Wins Killian Chaos

By Kathleen Dobson

In a nearly full Kresge auditorium, “ZSR Convertible,” created by Xin David Zhang ’06, Yasuhiro Shirasaki ’06, and Yin Ren ’06, went undefeated last Thursday to win this year’s Autonomous Design Robot Competition (6.270) called “Killian Chaos.”

The closest match-up of the day for “ZSR Convertible” came in the final round of the best of three match-up, when it defeated “Humble Trouble,” created by Cheng Lui ’05, Pedro Yip ’05, and Sheung Yan S. Lee ’07, by just one point.

“We expected to go pretty far” but did not expect to win, Ren said afterwards.

Having no previous robot design experience and little electronics coursework, the “ZSR Convertible” team relied on the programming experience of Zhang, who finished eighth in the world at the International Olympiad in Informatics when he was in high school.

Competition considered easier

This year’s competition was “significantly easier” than last year’s, said Vimal Bhalodia ’04, an organizer for the competition. In addition to including more scoring options, the contest designers also made the table flat, avoiding last year’s problems with light sensors on tilted surfaces, Bhalodia said.

The object of the contest was to collect balls arranged on the flat playing board and place them in one of three scoring areas on the board. Each small ball, or “freshman” was worth one point while the two large balls, or “particularly cool freshmen” were worth three points. The scoring areas or “living groups” were separate for the two robots competing and had 1x, 2x and 3x multiplication factors depending on their distance from the starting area.

ZSR Convertible’s strategy was to collect balls in a cage and go to the 2x multiplier area. Then, it detected the other robot’s position, using its infrared beacon, and determined whether to stay there or go to the 3x multiplier area, which was also the other robot’s starting position.

It was “quite a common design,” Ren said to the audience before the final round. Humble Trouble also used a cage to collect balls and several times ended up in the 3x multiplier area.

The “ZSR Convertible” team said that they spent between 130 and 150 hours on making the machine. They said they were in the lab for 36 hours straight before the machine was impounded.

The 6.270 course organizers also gave awards out to notable robots: “Chickenator,” which had wings on its side, won the “Cutest Award;” “9” won “The Stata Center Robot Award” for its unique design; and “Lawnmower of Justice” won “The Craziest Strategy Award.” Created by Louis Waldman and Matthew Webber, “Lawnmower of Justice” quickly pushed balls into its 1x scoring box, then followed the other robot around and attempted to block its competition’s access to their scoring area using whirling blades.

Slight changes from last year

Two new additions gave contest participants more flexibility in this year’s design. Students were given $30 to spend on “anything electronic” for their robot, said Balodia. Also, a gyroscope, which measures the rate change of a turn angle, was provided by Analog Devices, one of the course sponsors. Engineers from the company also helped the students implement the sensors during Independent Activies Period, said Jack Memishian ’65, an engineer from Analog in Cambridge.

The Analog engineers also designed and built their own robot, which competed against a robot created by Steven Schondorf, director of the Ford/MIT Alliance. Both robots were built along with the students in 6.270, using the same laboratory and equipment. The robots competed in exhibition rounds during the night, with the Analog team winning two of three contests.