LTU's Robofest goes online--making it the only robotics competition in the world this year

Release Date: June 17, 2020
Group Panorama

The participants in Robofest 2019 gather for a group photo inside Don Ridler Field House.
LTU file photo


Like so many other educational activities, Lawrence Technological University’s Robofest World Championship is moving online this year.

More than 2,500 students participate each year in Robofest in over 27 countries. When the coronavirus pandemic closed thousands of schools around the world in March, the student robotics competition was in the busy midst of its season of qualifying and regional competitions. The Robofest World Championship had originally been scheduled for May 14-16 on LTU’s Southfield campus.

C.J. Chung, Robofest inventor and professor of computer science at LTU, announced there will be a series of online competitions beginning Aug. 28 and 29, continuing through Oct. 2 and 3. Included will be this year’s Robofest Game, GolfBowl, in which students design and build a robot to putt golf balls into holes on a six-foot table while also knocking over water bottles. Also included will be other Robofest competitions: Exhibition, in which students dream up any task they choose and design a robot to perform it; BottleSumo Time Trial, a competition in which robots try to push water bottles off a table; RoboArts, in which students create robots that offer artistic performances like music or dance; RoboMed, in which students create medical care robots; and the Unknown Mission Challenge, in which students don’t know the task their robot will have to perform until competition day.

For the Exhibition open competitions, a panel of expert judges will decide winners after observing team presentations and robot demonstrations via video conference using the same rubric as they would if they were physically present. For game competitions, unknown tasks and factors will be unveiled at the same time all around the world, then local judges will score robots’ performance, while trained volunteer judges will monitor and proctor all the game locations via videoconference.

“We are proud to announce that Robofest is currently the only robotics world championship operating this year,” Chung said. “Rather than canceling it, we are creating a new modality in competition-based learning to cope with the unpredictable future. We firmly believe this will be a great opportunity for Robofest students to develop both hard STEM skills, and soft skills such as online technical communication and remote teamwork skills through internet tools.”

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. Robofest Games are like robotics exams. 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 $400.

Details about Robofest Online World Championship can be found at www.robofest.net. The Robofest office has been conducting mock online competitions using the Zoom webinar platform to prepare for the world championship. Watch the following videos to see how online competitions are organized:

DENSO is the platinum sponsor of Robofest again this year. The Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation is the gold sponsor. Robomatter Inc. is the silver sponsor. Bronze sponsors include National Defense Industrial Association Michigan Chapter, IEEE Southeastern Michigan Section, SoarTech, Realtime Technologies, Toyota, and IBM. Friends level sponsors include ART/DESIGN Group in Clawson, Aramark, ValPak, Robin G. Leclerc, CJ & Min Chung, Dein-Maehroboter.de, and Best Western Premier.

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 15 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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