On Saturday, April 9, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) chapter at Brown University hosted their organization’s annual robotics olympiad in Providence, Rhode Island.
The challenge was for students from various colleges and universities to develop a robot which is able to direct itself through a maze comprised of a 16 by 16 grid of 16.8 by 16.8 cm squares which featured several several dead ends and false leads.
For the 2016 competition, Economics and Computer Science major Arsal Habib ’16 and Mechanical Engineering major Carlos Galeano ’17 came in second place in the entire competition, which involved 15 teams from 12 schools, primarily located in the northeast.
The robot olympiad was organized into two rounds. The first round was designated as an exploratory round, in which each team’s robot started from a spot somewhere on the maze’s border and then ventured inside the maze in order to map all the various routes that it can possibly take. During the first round the robots have ten minutes to find a way to reach the center of the maze.
These robots, known as micromouses, are programmed to detect solid objects that are obstructing its path. The use of sensors is an essential component in order to identify the walls. The robots which were able to solve the maze qualified to compete in the second round.
In this year’s robotics olympiad three teams from three different schools qualified for the second round, Harvard University, Yale University and Union.
The second and final round tested how fast the team’s micromouse could solve the maze using the information it should have processed from the first round, and the teams were ranked according to how fast their respective micromouses solve the maze.
When Union competed in this portion of the competition their micromouse, the Dutch Bot, solved the maze in one minute and twenty-six seconds. The Union team was awarded second place, losing the first place spot to Harvard by three seconds.
In the end all of the teams gave a presentation to representatives of both Brown University and IEEE on how they went about the research and development of their micromouse.
The Electrical Engineering Department at Union was supportive of the efforts of the robotics team. President of the Union robotics club, Arsal Habib, mentioned Professor Travis, Head of Electrical Engineering, and Professor Hedrick as key supporters of their program as well as mentors who helped them utilize the right tools in order for their micromouse to be successful during the competition.
Arsal added that the robotics team is made up of more than just mechanical engineers, “We have a big mix of electrical, bio, computer science and of course mechanical engineers on the team.”
The Union robotics team is made up of roughly 15 members and hopes to attend more robotics competitions in the future before the end of the academic year.