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“Order of Random Gauchy” Wins MASLab

By Kathy Lin

EDITOR IN CHIEF

Over 50 students on 15 teams participated in the Mobile Autonomous System Laboratory, better known as MASLab, competition during the Independent Activities Period.

For the competition, teams of three to four students built robots that competed in the finals last Friday evening. Daniel M. Kane ’07, Anders H. Kaseorg ’08, You Zhou ’07, and Andrew P. Spann ’07 won the competition with the most points scored.

MASLab puts an “emphasis on building cool robots,” said Christopher F. Batten G, one of the MASLab organizers. Although there are some restrictions and rules, teams are relatively free to decide what materials and strategies they want to use.

“We don’t want to inhibit people,” Batten said. The team members get “a really hard problem and some really good equipment, and we just see what they can do,” Batten said.

The competition was vision-based, meaning teams used digital cameras on their robots to look at colors on the playing field and try to earn points.

In this year’s competition, robots earned points by collecting balls and doing different things with the balls.

The playing field was a 20 by 20 foot field, but the actual shape of the board was unknown. The robots were given three minutes to explore the board, then three minutes to actually score points.

Few teams, however, decided to use the exploration period, and only one team used it to its advantage.

There was a pretty wide range of robots and strategies, Batten said. For example, one robot could slide sideways, while another used mouse encoders for navigation.

Another robot was able to text message a laptop with a speech synthesizer, so it could say what it was thinking, Batten said. For example, the robot would say “ouch” when it hit a wall.

Many teams also had creative strategies for image processing, which was one of the big challenges in the competition, Batten said.

“We were trying to have fun, but we were certainly trying to win,” Kaseorg said, adding that their team “spent basically all day every day,” especially during the last week, on the robot.