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Helen H. Liang ’08 of “Three Blind Mice” places her robot, Paul, on the 6.270 playing field.
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Team Purple Dragon roared into the final rounds of this year’s 6.270 competition, taking first place before a large audience of local residents, students, and faculty last Thursday, Feb. 1 in room 26-100.

Sergio Haro ’08 and Julie Shi ’08, made up Team Purple Dragon. Team Supernova (Gary M. Matthias ’08, Jodyann F. Coley ’08 and Stephen J. Pueblo ’08), and Team Make Way for the Dung Beetles (Melanie C. Bomke ’09 and Samuel J. Evans ’09) were second and third place, respectively.

“I never thought I would actually win — it was very exciting,” Shi said.

The theme for this year’s contest was “Snakes on a Plane.” As in past years, robots moved colored balls around on a white, boxed-off area. This year’s competition found robots moving as many of their colored balls into the three different scoring areas of the demonstration arena. The round was won by having the most balls standing in as many of the three different scoring areas as possible.

In total, 47 teams of two or three students each were involved in the competition, said Julia M. Dennett ’08, one of the event coordinators.

The winning team was awarded the Glashan Brick, a metal LEGO brick upon which the winners names are inscribed, as well as LEGO kits.

Shi and Haro’s robot was seeded first throughout the contest. Their design had their robot moving quickly in the first few seconds of each round to place balls in the scoring areas. It would then remain relatively still afterwards.

Shi noted that during the course of the final elimination rounds, their robot competed against the placebo robots, a spinning Ferris wheel and a slithering snake-bot that were meant to simply fill space without actually competing in the tournament, a few times — a result of being seeded very high and having an odd number of remaining contestants.

Shi said that having to play against the placebos in a few rounds was perhaps not as fair to some of the other teams, who had opponents every round.

“I’m extremely proud to win second place,” said Pueblo. “We all put in a tremendous amount of work, and we knew that our robot would do well.”

Team Supernova’s robot experienced some technical difficulties as the tournament progressed.

Coley said that in general she felt that their robot was pretty consistent, but that if there were anything that they would have done differently, it would have been to try to get the robot to drive straighter. This would have improved the robot’s performance a little by preventing it from going off course so much, though it is difficult to determine how much a gyroscope will drift.

“If we had a chance to take 6.270 again, we would definitely use shaft encoders to drive more accurately,” said Pueblo in agreement with Coley. “A tip to future 6.270 participants: make sure your robot is consistent and reliable.”

“It was surprising and satisfying to see that our hard work paid off in such a tangible way,” Evans said of his third place robot.

The Dung Beetles experienced some stalling in the later rounds of the tournament, which Bomke and Evans both attributed to various mechanical failures with the robot’s gearbox.

Dennett mentioned that the organizers have started to work on the contest rules and design for next year already.

A notable change will be that organizers may be paid next year, Dennett said.

Dennett said that the event organizers also hope to find a way to prevent the double win situation from occurring, so that only one team can win in every round.

This year, as in the past, several sponsors gave away free items such as t-shirts that audience members scrambled to acquire.

A Web site featuring more information about this year’s contest can be found online at http://web.mit.edu/6.270/www/about/history.html.