They’re a far cry from the Terminator, but four-inch-tall robots will battle for their electronic lives today (Thursday) at the University of Northern Iowa. Physics professor Cliff Chancey says the contest is a final exam of sorts for U-N-I physics students who’ve spent months building the little fighters.

Chancey says the robots are called mini-sumos because they act like sumo wrestlers in Japan. Using electronic eyes and various sensors, the robots will be paired off and try to push each other out of the ring. The rolling devices are fast-moving, battery-powered and are independent and rely on their eyes and sensors once they enter the ring — or the hallway.

Chancey says “You almost think they’re human in some ways. They have been programmed to avoid certain things but then also to go and attack certain things. I’ve been watching some of them run up to somebody and menace them.” The robots were created by students as part of a 15-week course that combines electronics, programming and physics. He says they’re unusual-looking creatures.

Chancey says they’re a cross between a snowplow and two big wheels. They have a little platform with a circuitboard and wires sprouting out of it, flashing lights, a big scoop and electronic eyes on top. The competition from U-N-I’s Seerley Hall can be seen live over the Internet from 9 to 11 AM at “”and click on the Mini-sumo Robot Competition link.

Students who built the competitors today include: Wesley Moore of Bloomfield, David Hilgeman of Cedar Falls, Cody Law of Correctionville, Shawn Breuklander of Forest City, Jon Lamb of Iowa City, Chuck Pelton of Independence, Doug Bechthold of La Porte City, Michael Boomer and Craig Pawlak, both of Waterloo.