SOUTHFIELD—The 2020 Robofest World Championship, the only global robotics competition happening anywhere this year in this pandemic-wracked world, is under way.
The first phase of the now-online competition, the Unknown Mission Challenge, was held the weekend of Aug. 28-29. In this competition, students are not told what their robots need to do until competition day, and they have only a short time to program their robots to accomplish the task.
Competitions in other categories are continuing weekends through October, when winners in all classes will be announced.
In parts of the world where the coronavirus pandemic was quickly brought to heel, in-person regional competitions were held. Taiwan’s, for example, was held in May, organized by Chien-Tai Lo, who earned a Master of Science degree in computer science from LTU in 2004.
LTU computer science professor C.J. Chung founded Robofest in 1999. Teams compete in a variety of games and tasks in junior (grades 5-8) and senior (grades 9-12) divisions, with a few competitions also having a college division. In past years, participating teams have hailed from Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ghana, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Lebanon, Macau, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Romania, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.
Next up for Robofest are the RoboArts and RoboMed competitions Friday and Saturday, Sept. 11-12.
RoboArts is for exhibition projects that are focused on the visual and performing arts. Liz Wetzel, co-director of LTU’s transportation design program, and Vivian Kao, assistant professor in LTU’s Department of Humanities, Social Sciences, and Communication will be the judges representing LTU faculty for RoboArts.
RoboMed is a new competition this year, in which high school and college students will design and build a robot that could be used in the biomedical and healthcare fields, with a focus on entrepreneurial thinking. Yawen Li, chair of LTU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering, Hao Jiang, assistant professor in the department, and Aleksandra Kuzmanov, assistant professor in the Department of Natural Sciences, will be the judges representing LTU faculty for RoboMed.
Success at Robofest requires mastery of multiple STEM and computer science subjects, which in turn drives preparation for college classes and high-tech careers. In addition, Robofest teaches students to develop soft skills such as problem solving, teamwork, creative thinking, and communication. The Robofest rules allow the use of any robotics kit on the market in the construction of robots that can be programmed with any programming language. Robofest offers a wide variety of events that fit many robotics experience levels and interests. Students must solve unknown tasks and factors on the fly, without adult help. Unlike other robotics competitions, the robots are completely software-controlled, not controlled by remote operators using joysticks. And Robofest offers a more modest cost than other robotics competitions, with a basic robotic kit that costs approximately $400.
For more information on getting involved in Robofest, visit www.robofest.net.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, and Engineering. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.