March 02, 2010
"When push came to shove," said Max Galloway-Carson, "we decided it was better to be heavier." It was a winning plan, as a computerized robot built by Galloway-Carson, a junior from Evanston, Illinois, and his lab partner Michael Kaminski, a sophomore from Round Lake Park, Illinois, bested four opponents in Knox's annual Sumo Computer Robot Competition, held on February 25. Photo, right: Max and Mike and robot "Jack"; above, the winners celebrate.
Five student teams built and programmed robots using Lego Mindstorms kits. This year's competition introduced a new assignment -- in addition to trying to push an opposing robot out of a four-foot circular ring, the robots also had to find and push a can out of the ring.
The kits include both optical and pressure sensors. While the computers in the robots are simple -- the winners spent about three hours on programming -- writing the instructions is harder than it sounds, according to the contest organizer, John Dooley, professor and chair of computer science.
"You know what you want the computer to do, but the computer only knows what you've told it," Dooley said after the contest. "What you don't know, until the competition, is how your robot will react to the other one."
The students were limited to only the parts in the kits. Although they were not required to use all the parts, Galloway-Carson said that he and Kaminski decided to pile on the mass. "The other teams used only one or two motors. We used all three motors. We wanted to pack on as much as we could."
Photos: above right, Jonathan Pierce-Ruhland of Racine, Wisconsin; right, faculty members John Dooley and Don Blaheta, and students Jason McGeeney of Louisville, Kentucky, and Peter Walker of Portland, Oregon; below, Christopher Johnson of Hammonton, New Jersey, and Cassie Versaggi of Big Bear City, California; bottom, Matthew Becker of Laddonia, Missouri, checks whether his robot is on or off the ring.
"We tried to focus on the fundamentals, like not falling off the ring," Kaminski said.
This is the eighth year that the Knox computer science department has held the event.
2010 Sumo Robot Competition Results:
1. Max Galloway-Carson and Michael Kaminski
2. Jonathan Pierce-Ruhland
3. (tie) Matthew Becker; Christopher Johnson and Cassie Versaggi
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 47 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.