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RoboDojo Lab Gears Up for All Out Battle of the Bots
U.S. Navy photo by Javier Chagoya

RoboDojo Lab Gears Up for All Out Battle of the Bots

By Javier Chagoya

NPS’ RoboDojo Lab held its second ever Ant-Weight BattleBots competition for remotely-operated mini-robots in a makeshift arena in the Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Auditorium, Aug. 31.

According to NPS Department of Defense Analysis Lecturer, and RoboDojo director, Kristen Tsolis, the competition is the end result of a lot of hard work by faculty, staff and students who, for the most part, know nothing about computer coding, circuit design or basic engineering. Over the course of several robot building workshops in the lab, people with no background in engineering or computers are able to develop a fundamental understanding of basic robot design and programming.

“The competition brings together robot designers young and old for a veritable clash of the titans, or in this case, the ant weight class of robot,” said Tsolis. “These small robots cannot exceed 454 grams and can only measure 30.48 centimeters in length and width. And they’re all fabricated in the RoboDojo lab by NPS students, faculty and their dependents.”

With all of the gusto of a circus ringmaster, NPS Associate Professor of Information Sciences Ray Buettner served as the announcer for the remotely-controlled robot derby.

“And in this corner, we have BeardBot going against Snaggletooth ... Begin!” shouted Buettner, as the crowd rooted for their personal favorites. While it’s a lot of fun and games, Buettner says, ultimately the competition is about gaining hands-on experience in the robotics design process.

“As we continue to accelerate into a future that will likely include the ubiquitous presence of robotic and autonomous systems, it is more critical than ever that Navy and Marine Corps officers become familiar with the characteristics of these systems,” explained Beuttner. “The CRUSER-sponsored RoboDojo is intended to provide a mechanism for students to engage the relevant technologies directly regardless of their curriculum, service specialty or prior experience.

“This competition provides focus and motivation for RoboDojo members to apply what they learn to the classic battle paradigm in a fun and family-friendly way,” he added. “This is just one of many examples of the extra value inherent in a resident education at the Naval Postgraduate School.”

“By holding robotics workshops and running these competitions, the RoboDojo is helping our community get its feet wet with regards to robotics,” added Tsolis. “Once students build and compete with an ant weight robot, they get excited for all of the other programs and free workshops we offer in the RoboDojo. A few students and families in the audience today have already let us know that they will be part of our December 1 competition coinciding with Discover NPS Day.”

As the smoke cleared on an afternoon of heated battle, Scoopa Troopa and its dustpan-shaped front end and superior traction proved to be too much for the competition. Until December, all other contenders will have the RoboDojo open and ready to help their ‘bots step up to the arena.

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