Challenge | TrailBlazers |
Q & A
Key Features of Abington Robot Contests:
Autonomous robots must pick-up and shoot or dunk foam
balls (4 inch diameter) into a net positioned 12" above playing surface.
Head-to-head contest. Contests were held in since 1995. .
Click here for more information (rules,
registration, schedule, pictures, etc.) >>>>
Mini Grand Challenge "Campus Tour" Outdoor Robot Contest
The Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge outdoor robot contest challenges
mobile, ground robots to autonomously navigate paths throughout the campus of
Penn State Abington College while avoiding obstacles and tackling off-road
detours. The objective of this contest is to promote advances in
engineering design, computer technologies, artificial intelligence, and
robotics. This contest was partly inspired by the DARPA Grand Challenge robot
initiative to spark innovation in intelligent robot vehicles. Unlike the DARPA
challenge, however, the Penn State Abington Mini Grand Challenge will allow
for low cost (yet highly sophisticated) robots to compete. Also, the
contest will not be held in the southern California area, but right here in
Abington, PA (located in the Philadelphia, PA suburbs). The first
Abington Mini Grand Challenge was held in April of 2005. Check website
for next event.
Robots will be encouraged to interact with and
entertain the spectators. Robots will be rewarded for exhibiting
interesting behaviors such as joke telling, song playing, voice announcements,
etc. This event is the first of its kind -- so anything can happen.
Click here for more information (dates, rules,
registration, schedule, etc.) >>>>
Mobile robots (or teams of cooperating robots) must
follow a line or navigate around obstacles to reach the goal in a minimum
amount of time. Robots interact with electric train! Offered in 1998,
1999, 2000, 2001.
Last contest date: Sat. Dec 8, 2001. This contest is no longer active.
Click here for more information >>>
Questions and Answers
How much time is required to prepare for one of
the robot contests?
Generally, students work for 2 to 4 hours per week, for a period of 6 to 10
weeks. Some teams spend much less time, and others much more. It
depends on the equipment you use, the availability of mentors, team size,
experience, and your educational objectives, etc.
What robot equipment is recommended for beginners to get started
It is recommended that you seriously consider the
Lego Mindstorms Robot Invention System
(RIS). These robot kits have been used effectively in 2nd grade to
college level. The RIS kits generally cost $200 and require the use of a
PC or laptop. There are many programming languages available for the
Mindstorms kits including RoboLab,
Not Quite C (NQC), RCX Code, Visual Basic, Interactive C (IC), Java, etc.
There are may other commonly-used robot controllers such as the Basic Stamp,
Handyboard, OOPic, Brainstem, and others. Each controller has a unique set
of pros and cons.
Why do these contests emphasize autonomous
Autonomous robots (as opposed to remote-controlled robots) have the advantage of introducing students to software design,
IT, programming languages, sensors, and artificial intelligence. Software
design, sensors, and microprocessor interfacing are important technologies.
You cannot separate computer science from engineering. For example, in
your car there are embedded systems that control the anti-lock brakes, fuel
injection, stabilization control, etc. -- these systems all work with
microprocessors and software. The same is true for your cell phone.
Basically, wherever there are microprocessors, then there is software.
And microprocessors are almost everywhere -- even in some sneakers!. The
good news is that you do not need any formal training in computer science and
programming to be able to program a robot. This is due to the availability
of low-cost, intuitive programming tools. Basically the only prerequisite
to programming a robot is to be able to think logically. There are many
documented cases where 3rd graders have successfully learned to program robots.
In fact, you can learn how to program while you design your robot!
Generally, remote-controlled robots generally do not have embedded computers, software,
and sensors. Some
of the contests described above allow for remote control of robots for K-8
levels The idea here is that, as a first step, builders can create a
working mechanical design that operates under remote control, enter the robot
into the contest, then add a microprocessor and software to allow the robot to
work autonomously in a future contest or activity. Due to recent advances
in low-cost computer and software technology, such as the Lego Mindstorms robot
kit and others, it is feasible for a K-5 or middle school student, with little
training, to design a robot to operate under software control.
Who can I contact to get more information on the
Penn State Abington robot events, and learn how to get involved in a robotics
program in my school or organization?
Contact Bob Avanzato at Penn State Abington for more information. His
email is firstname.lastname@example.org