Robofest, the global robotics competition invented at Lawrence Technological University, will host its first-ever “BottleSumo” competitions in the new A. Alfred Taubman Engineering, Architecture, and Life Sciences Complex on Saturday, Nov. 12 and Saturday, Nov. 19.
Fifth through eighth graders will compete on Nov. 12, while high school students in grades 9-12 will compete on Nov. 19. Both days, the fun, games, and learning begin at 9 a.m., with the finals scheduled around noon. The events are free and open to the public.
The $16.9 million, 36,700-foot-building contains new laboratories for emerging interdisciplinary programs in robotics, biomedical engineering, mechatronics, and architectural engineering. It was dedicated Sept. 21.
The Taubman Complex is also home to the new Marburger STEM Center, a new initiative at LTU to expand its outreach in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) from early childhood through college. The STEM Center was made possible by a $20 million gift from former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, who took mathematics classes at LTU as a youth and received an honorary Doctor of Computer Science and Engineering from the university in 2013.
“We are very excited to be holding our first competition in the new building,” said Robofest founder C.J. Chung, associate chair and professor of mathematics and computer science at LTU. “We can’t wait to introduce all of our teams to the great new space.”
The objective of BottleSumo is to push a bottle, or the opponent robot, off a table. According to Chung, teams learn that programming the robot to find the bottle and push it off the table gives them a better chance of winning than taking on the other robot.
“BottleSumo game teaches how to win without physical fighting while learning lots of computer science algorithms such as search,” Chung said.
In the competition Nov. 12, 18 teams will compete, from Canton Township, Clawson, Novi, Plymouth, Southfield and Troy. Each team will compete in a seeded single elimination bracket leading up to the final round.
About 2,500 students from all over the world are involved every year in Robofest, which was founded in 1999. Robofest is a competition of autonomous robots – computer-programmed to act independently and not remote-controlled – that encourages students to master principles of STEM by focusing on computer science and programming. BottleSumo is one of nine Robofest programs.
Lawrence Tech President Virinder Moudgil noted that hands-on technology education should start at a young age, and LTU’s Robofest is an international competition that provides opportunities for young people to have fun while learning STEM, robotics, and computer science.