Tiny robots, built by students at the University of Northern Iowa, are squaring off today with robots built by students from as far away as Hawaii and Canada. The Cedar Falls institution is hosting the Mini-sumo Robot Competition. UNI physics professor Cliff Chancey is organizing the battles between the four-inch tall robots.
Chancey says: "They look like a little steam shovel in some ways. They have these two wheels on the sides and they have this scoop or shovel in the front. They are battery-powered and have microprocessors on board so that they control themselves." Chancey, who heads UNI’s physics department, says this is the second annual competition between the dynamic little robots as they seek out and shove around their enemies.
He says, "The whole goal is to find your opponent within a circular ring and then push your opponent out of the ring — that’s why the word "sumo" is in these mini-sumos. It’s a challenge. They will rock back and forth, scanning the ring, looking for the competitor, then they will lock on their competitor and go after the other robot."
Chancey says while the competition is thrilling and fun, the students are also learning a great deal. Chancey says: "It’s a wonderful exercise in critical thinking, to try to think ahead. The practical aspects are: learning something about robotics, their capabilities, the degree of programming you have to use to do it, and just the hands-on aspect of soldering the components together."
Elementary school students from the Cedar Falls area will be showing off their robots before the college-level competition at Seerly Hall. The events will be broadcast on-line .