Logo: University of Southern California

Undergrads Demo Their 'Bots for Elementary Schoolers and TV News Crews

California Science Center hosts presentation of final projects for 10th straight year.
Eric Mankin
December 18, 2007 — The dramatic finale of the undergraduate introduction to robotics, CS 445, is a simulated search and rescue.

The 'bots are about the size of a shoebox, assembled from $550 LEGO kits animated by "Handyboard" processors. Students design and program them. The machines must operate completely automatically and autonomously: once they're turned on, the robots are totally on their own. Their mission: to search for and find green beanbag "victims" spread out on a enclosed playing surface, and drag them back to safety. The 'bot that "rescues" the most beanbags wins.
Winning team (top, from left:) Rohit Kuman, Adithi Murthy P; Kaleb Best; and M. Omar Khan. (not shown: Amrish Savla and Ruslan U. Sibagatullin)
Runners up (below, from left) Aoran Li, Wei-Chung Chang, Morgan Brown, Max Smoot and Benjamin Forman.

On Dec 11, eleven free-running wheeled or tracked robots built by five student teams competed. Prof. Maja Mataric created the course; the competition has been staged every year since 1998.  The venue is the California Science Center, where visiting classes of elementary school students were invited to observe the proceedings.

Before the robots work, a volunteer elementary school student is asked to do what the robots will do - find the three beanbag victims and bring them to the hospital - which they do without difficulty  The students then explain that the task is easy for people because they have good color vision, can recognize objects, can move easily to where the beanbags are, and can locate and pick up the beanbags without thinking.

All these tasks are major challenges for the robots, and for their student designers.

This year, the class instructor was Hadi Moradi; and the teaching assistant was Randolph Voorhies.

TV and print journalists were also on hand. Click on the images below to see their reports.


Click on the headline to read the Sing Dao newspaper report