Team Aperture won the 22nd annual Autonomous Robot Design Competition Saturday afternoon at the Ford Engineering and Design Center. Student-built autonomous robots went head-to-head in an attempt to collect the most “prey.”
The competition tested students’ abilities to design, construct and program robots that could not be controlled once the competition started. While most of the teams began building their robots during Winter Quarter, many contestants pulled all-nighters to fine-tune their robots.
“You’re writing code until the last moment,” McCormick senior Kashif Malik said. “Our team stayed up all night working on it.”
After a preliminary round to determine seeding, the double-elimination tournament commenced. Each match featured two robots inside an arena tasked to collect and return “prey,” smaller autonomous robots, to their home base. Each capture was worth one point, while returning the prey to home base was worth three points.
The winning robot, designed by McCormick sophomores Seth McCammon, Kevin Ye and Georgiy Mazin, resembled Pac-Man with its circular shape and “mouth” to collect prey. McCammon said the design was “simple” and had few moving parts. The robot’s shape allowed it to maneuver easily out of the corners.
Robots used lasers to track objects in the environment and had many different capture devices, from claws to shovels. Third-place finisher Team Brobotics, composed of McCormick fifth-years Sam Schwartz and Jake Vander Ploeg, built a robot that used a conveyor belt to eject the prey from the back of the robot when it approached home base. Brobotics built their robot to be “as bulky as possible,” to outlast other robots in the middle of the arena, Vander Ploeg said.
At times, the competition had the feel of a sporting event. After a battle, teams hurried to their work areas to test batteries, fix broken parts and make minor coding fixes. Teams were permitted to make changes to their robots during the event, but contestants said it was difficult to make major overhauls to their designs.
In addition to winning the competition and a cash prize, Aperture received the Myke Minbiole Elegant Engineering Award, named after a McCormick alumnus who was killed in a hit-and-run collision in 2007. Aperture went undefeated throughout the competition and also boasted the highest single-round score.