Robot Sumo Wrestlers Compete at SF State
Robot sumo wrestling brings potential engineers to SF State
February 25, 2006 11:29 PM
Have no fear. Despite appearances last week, the student center has not been taken over by battling robots.
In an effort to reach out to potential engineering students, SF State sponsored a morning of mini-robot sumo wrestling and a scholarship award ceremony for local high school students Feb. 24.
The School of Engineering provided robot kits to high school students and rewarded the winners with cash prizes. Though only a few schools came to the event, the ones that competed were able to bring large teams of one to three robots. Twelve robots and about 40 students competed in the event. This was the third year SF State has hosted the event in Jack Adams Hall at the Cesar Chavez student center.
The matches follow the rules of the Robotics Society of America’s RoboGames, and the competition was hosted by RoboGames founder David Calkins, a professor of robotics at SF State School of Engineering. Each individual match is a contest of two robots trying to push the other outside of a ring. Using light sensors to avoid rolling outside the ring, they move and spin based on programmed commands.
The real challenge for the students was keeping their robot functioning through multiple matches. Although a few were modified with extra parts, some failed at the basic objective to stay inside the ring. Many students were reassembling their robots seconds before competing.
“The first law of robotics: robots never work when you want them to work,” said Calkins.
The winning robot, Gizmo, also took second place in last year’s competition. Fighting for Bridgemont High School, Gizmo and his two teammates sported the most practical innovation in the competition – a simple carrying handle on top to prevent damage to fragile components when lifting the robots.
“I really like the handle idea. I’m going to put that on my robots,” said Calkins.
Jacob Correa, Jonathan Tropper, Kevin Chow, and Rochelle Caledon worked on the winning robot, and said they might donate their $300 prize to the Bridgemont High School physics department.
Second place went to a one-person team, 17-year-old Thomas Scally from San Francisco’s John O’ Connell High School of Technology. Scally and his school won the 2005 regional FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) championship, and went on to the finals in Atlanta. He said that building the one-pound mini robot for the SF State competition was easy compared to the weeks spent working on a 120-lb fighting robot for the FIRST competition. Scally said it only took him 30 minutes to assemble his robot.
After the competition, a luncheon was held in the science building meeting room where local technology firms rewarded high school students with engineering scholarships. ShyShenq Liou, director of the School of Engineering, believes that this outreach is helpful for drawing students into the program, even if they do not choose SF State.
“This is great motivation for students to get involved in the practical aspects of science,” said Albert Jou, a science teacher at Philip and Sala Burton High School in San Francisco.
Calkins hopes the students bring their robots back for the 2006 International RoboGames, which was scheduled for spring break but will now take place from June 16-18. The games will be at San Francisco’s Fort Mason Festival Pavilion and are sponsored by SF State.
“We needed more space,” said Calkins. “It is impossible to do combat in the gymnasium here. It took 20 extra people to run it here.”
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