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Ljubicic, Robot Win 2.007 “Big Dig” Contest

By Kathy Dobson

STAFF REPORTER

Dean M. Ljubicic ’06 took first place in the annual 2.007 design contest with his robot besting that of Bryan Woodruff ’06 in the final round.

Both robots featured complicated designs with multiple strategies, and both robots required an additional driver.

“A lot of people say, ‘Make your design simple,’” Ljubicic said; “I did something complicated but put in enough time to make sure it worked.”

Samuel M. Felton ’06 and Adam S. Kaczmarek ’06 were the other two in the final four of the contest and, as a result of their finish, will participate with Ljubicic and Woodruff in the International Design Contest in Japan this summer.

Contest features many options

Named “Big Dig” in honor of Boston’s Central Artery/Tunnel Project, this year’s contest had four scoring options -- more than there have been in previous years’ contests. The most popular scoring option was to move balls from a stack located between the two players’ starting positions and drop them into a hole in the table. Fifty-five small balls and four large shotput balls, as well as pucks that lined areas of the table, could be placed in the hole for points.

Another scoring option, which was also used by many participants, was to spin a paddle wheel which was only accessible by driving up a ramp. The score was the maximum rotational speed of that shaft. This value was multiplied by the mass, in grams, in the hole.

The last two scoring options, which were rarely, if ever, used, were to push a button on the table, which added ten times the number of seconds elapsed to the score, and to push mass through a small tunnel, which multiplied the total score by two.

Multiple strategies used

Ljubicic relied on his blocking projectile to stop his opponents, but he also built in several offensive mechanisms capable of scoring points. “I expected to do well,” Ljubicic said. “My goal was to place in the top four” because of the trip to Japan, he said.

In the finals, Ljubicic was able to spin the paddle wheel to win the round and the contest.

“I didn’t know he had a spinner,” Woodruff said. Ljubicic said that he had not used the spinner in any of the earlier rounds because he was saving it as a last resort.

Woodruff’s robot, which was faster and more mobile than most, consisted of two smaller robots. One of the robots was specialized in spinning the paddle wheel, and did so quite successfully until the last round. The other robot pushed balls into the hole.

Woodruff said that he stayed up on Wednesday night trying to figure out how to beat Ljubicic. “He was the one person I feared,” Woodruff said.

Contest more complicated

Professor Ernesto E. Blanco, an instructor in the course, said that the contest was more complicated than past years’ contests. “I wonder if we made it too complicated and too difficult,” he said.

Slocum said that the students were a little more on schedule this year. The instructors did “a better job coaching and keeping them to a schedule,” he said.

The course also differed this year in that students built a simple car for three weeks early in the semester as an introduction, Slocum said. Between a quarter and a half of the students incorporated their early cars into their final machines, he said.

The “robots generally came out less well-made this year, but they came out sooner,” said Peter K. Augenbergs ’05, an undergraduate assistant for this year’s contest who participated last year.

“People were driving around a lot sooner than last year,” said Jeremy H. Scholz ’05, also an assistant who participated last year.

Many hours spent on robots

Both Ljubicic and Woodruff said that they spent a lot of time building their machines.

Ljubicic said that he spent about twelve hours a week on his machine.

Woodruff said that he worked on his machine every day over spring break and 16 hours a week during the semester.

Woodruff’s advice for anyone taking 2.007 in future years? “Don’t leave a 2.005 project until the night after 2.007.”