Robofest Becomes a National Contest


Southfield, Michigan � Robofest 2003 is Saturday, April 26 at Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan. Robofest was started at Lawrence Tech in 2000, and the number of participants continues to grow each year. It�s a playful learning environment for science, engineering, and technology for fifth grade to college students.

The availability of smaller, more modular, and cheaper hardware components has made it possible for more students to build autonomous robots that integrate mechanical, electrical and computational components. Registration for Robofest 2003 was closed after the first 11 hours, because it had surpassed the maximum number of teams (70) that could be accommodated. A waiting list was formed.

To serve teams on the waiting list, Cranbrook Institute of Science is hosting an additional site at The Dexter-Elmhurst Family and Community Center, 11825 Dexter Ave., in Detroit, also on April 26. More than 300 students have registered for the event. Not only has the popularity of Robofest grown in Michigan, it also is expanding to other states. RoboTech Center in Nashua, New Hampshire will host Robofest 2003 May 4th. There will be a new award category �Robofest National Championship� which will be determined by the best completion time of all the robot missions.

While there are other robot competitions, Robofest is unique in several ways:

        Robots must be fully autonomous -- no remote controls allowed.

        Emphasis on learning computer technology.

        The world�s first K-12 robotics contest in which the dimensions of the playing field are unknown. Robost must use feedback loop control, which requires sensors and adaptive logic in their programs.

        There are two ways to participate; competition or exhibition.

        Students are free to choose their programming language: RCX code, RoboLab, NQC, C++, Visual Basic, or Java.

This year�s K-12 Robofest mission requires robots to simulate the repair of the reactor containment structure in a nuclear power plant. The first robot drops items representing �radioactive shielding� into a containment structure. The second robot pushes a simulated �concrete barricade� up to the containment structure to shut off possible radioactivity from the reactor.

A new twist in the 2003 competition is that one of the game rules will be unknown by the participants until the day of competition. A special award goes to the team that solves the whole problem for the first time. Proctors will watch to see if direct help is given to any of the teams.

The college division competition at LTU will simulate a situation in which an autonomous Lawrence Tech laptop robot must navigate around various obstacles while staying in between two dashed lines. Teams from the Computer Science and Computer Engineering Department are constructing robot hardware and developing software, using theories such as fuzzy logic control, artificial neural networks, computer vision, and evolutionary computation.

The robotics exhibition portion of Robofest is a great way for students to show off their creativity. Each team has complete freedom to create an autonomous robot, such as robot pets, robot artists, dancing robots, storytelling with robots, robots for scientific experiments, and practical robotics applications. At the LTU location, Lawrence Tech computer science students will introduce a laptop robot tennis game and two laptop robot helpers.

Robofest is made possible through support from the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Math and Computer Science. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) has been an active supporter since 2000, and is the premier sponsor of Robofest 2003. Research Into Internet Systems (RIIS) is a new sponsor this year.

Robofest admission is free and everyone is welcome. The opening ceremony is planned to begin at 10 a.m. at the LTU and Detroit sites.


If you have any questions about Robofest, or would like to join in, visit or call 248.204.3504.





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