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LTU's Robofest returning for 2021 with a 'stacked' competition

Release Date: March 24, 2021
robofest online

Here's what LTU's Robofest competition looked like online in 2020.
LTU file photo

SOUTHFIELD—Lawrence Technological University’s Robofest, the only global robotics competition  to go on in 2020 despite the pandemic, is back for its 2021 competition with a new game.

Teams and judges participated in a warmup competition on March 13 for this year’s game, called StackRolls. In this game, competing robots must locate five rolls of toilet paper on a six-foot table, and stack them as high as possible.

“The higher the robot can stack the tower, the more points they get,” said Robofest director Christopher Cartwright, an associate professor of mathematics and computer science at Lawrence Tech. Cartwright joined the LTU faculty in 2003 and has been involved in Robofest since 2009, most recently as chief game judge. He took over from Robofest originator C.J. Chung, LTU professor of mathematics and computer science, this year.

Once again, Robofest will feature six competitions for students in junior (grades 5-8), senior (grades 9-12), and college divisions. Besides the game competition, categories include:

  • Exhibition, in which teams can design any task they choose, and build and program a robot to accomplish it.
  • RoboMed, in which high school and college teams design a robotic medical device.
  • BottleSumo, in which robots are designed push a bottle – or the other robot – off a table.
  • RoboArts, in which robots are judged on how they complete an artistic task like music, art, or dance.
  • The Unknown Mission Challenge, in which students learn their task the day of competition and program a robot to complete it.

This year’s online world competition will be held most Fridays and Saturdays from Aug. 20 to Sept. 25, with an online awards ceremony set for Oct. 2.

Robofest is unique among robotics competitions in that all its robots are controlled only by software, not operators with joysticks—reflecting on how almost all robots work in the real world. Robofest rules allow the use of any robotics kit on the market. In addition, barriers to entry are low, with an entry fee of only $50 and a basic robot kit that costs about $400.

Robofest also teaches students to develop skills such as problem solving, teamwork, creative thinking, and communication. And all robots must be built and programmed without adult help.

Since 1999, nearly 30,000 students have competed in Robofest, including teams from 18 states and the countries of Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, England, France, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Kenya, Lebanon, Macau, Malawi, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Anyone interested in fielding a team or volunteering to judge, coach, or otherwise support Robofest 2021 should email the Robofest office at robofest@ltu.edu or email Robofest coordinator Pam Sparks directly at psparks@ltu.edu. There’s also a Robofest eAcademy of online classes developed by Robofest veterans, at www.robofest.net/index.php/eacademy.

Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers nearly 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.

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