Putting the skills learned in the classroom to good use through hands-on experience in their future professions is important for students. These types of activities can also teach students discipline and teamwork to students.
And for Jack Simpson, senior mechanical engineering major, this also includes the opportunity to smash things.
Using the skills they have learned in the classroom, CSUN engineering students participated in a nationwide robot competition, RoboGames, at San Francisco State University March 24-27.
This was the first time CSUN had competed in a combat robotics competition.
“Unfortunately, we did not win any titles,” said Robert Ryan, CSUN engineering professor. “(But) we did win two matches with one of our robots — not bad for a rookie team.”
Participants in the competition construct robots that battle other robots, inflicting as much damage as possible on their opponents.
The contest was open to anyone who wanted to compete, and was comprised of 13 teams from different countries around the world. The youngest contestant was 6 years old and won a silver medal in BEAM (category), while the oldest contestant was 72 years old and won a gold medal in the 120-pound combat mid-weight category.
“This event promoted teamwork, design, fabrication and such,” Simpson said. “It allowed the students to use the theory from the classroom and apply it to a real-life competitive situation.”
The significance of participation in events like RoboGames is on several levels, Ryan said.
“First, the students have to design and build a robot which satisfies all of the competition rules, and which can battle other robots successfully,” Ryan said. “Second, to prepare for the actual competition requires the team to take care of a lot of logistical details, and of course, finish the construction and testing of the robot on time. Third, they get a chance to see how other teams approached the same design problem, and to see how their design stacks up against the competition. Most of the other teams were serious robot hobbyists with at least several years of competition experience, so we were like the new kids on the block.”
Julie Morrow, senior mechanical engineering student, said the tournament structure was set in double elimination, meaning the robot is given the chance to lose twice before being eliminated from the competition.
“One of our bots, Taz, went up against last year’s champion and was critically wounded,” Morrow said. “Thankfully, we were able to resurrect Taz in time for its next fight, or we would have had to forfeit.”
CSUN’s other robot, Xitium, won its first battle against last years’ third place winner.
Xitium won its’ second battle against a robot named Snuggles II, but lost against last year’s champion, Megabyte.
“The damage was too great to survive another fight,” Morrow said. “Xitium’s last fight was forfeited so that we would have some working components to bring home and use in the future.”
Mike Dodd and Nick Muniozguren were the drivers of the CSUN robots. Morrow, Ana Schuster, Edvin Mehrabian and Thomas Arnold were the mechanical engineering support crew.
Crystal Austin and Mark Barnes made up the electrical engineering support crew.
“The biggest struggle we had to deal with was adapting our robots to fight the other robots, and fixing our robot between rounds when time was a limiting factor,” Simpson said. “The team was willing to work late into the night and start early in the morning to be sure our robot was ready for the competition.”
Although CSUN did not win the competition, Simpson said his team was very successful. He also said even though he was disappointed about their loss, he felt fortunate to be working with such a dedicated team.
“Had they not worked as hard as they did, we would have been eliminated after the first round,” Simpson said. “The knowledge and experience we have gained from the event will enable future CSUN teams to be even more successful than we were.”