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Robotics: Can You Spell Success?
November 18, 2011
Successful Team: ROSEbotics team members
Andrew Perry, Jack Petry and Cody Roberts
expressed their joy after forming the word
"BACKWOODSY" to win the next round of the
fall robotics challenge. The team went on to
capture top honors in the friendly competition
among first-year electrical and computer engineering
Every second mattered as robots developed by freshman electrical
and computer engineering students moved lettered blocks to spell
words in a scrabble-like challenge that showcased ingenuity,
strategy and teamwork.
The specially designed Spiel-n-Spell game was a friendly,
ungraded competition for 16 teams as part of this fall's
engineering practice course. Each team's LEGO-based robots
had three minutes to form words from as many of the 42 wooden
lettered blocks scattered throughout the four-sided game
board. Words with the most letter combinations had the
greatest opportunity to earn the Speller Supreme Award as overall
The four-member ROSEbotics team came out on top after making a
last-second move to add an extra "B" block to the first letter of
the word "Backwoodsy", forming a second word, "BB." That
additional word provided enough points to edge another strong team,
the Legonautics. The team also came up with a 10-letter word,
"Accidental," in the final round.
"Coming up with 'BB' at the last second was a stroke of genius
and just plain luck on our part. It happened with few seconds
to spare," said Jack Petry of the champion Rosebotics team.
"We saw the extra 'B' block on the board and added it to our string
of letters in the nick of time. It was very exciting."
In another stroke of genius, the team added the "Y" block to the
word "Backwoods" to come out victorious in an early round of the
Other members of the ROSEbotics squad were Andrew Perry, Cody
Roberts and Eric Taylor.
The robotics challenge wasn't about winning, but developing the
teamwork skills necessary to form a strong product development
team, according to Robert Throne, head of Rose-Hulman's Department
of Electrical and Computer Engineering. He was one of the
instructors for the first-year engineering practice course.
"Every team has won by getting to the competition. They
have learned skills and developed partnerships that will help them
throughout the next four years and their careers," said Throne, who
assisted emeriti faculty member David Voltmer in the fall
Hard At Work: Rose-Hulman Institute
of Technology freshmen electrical and
computer engineering students designed
LEGO-based robots that picked up wooden
blocks to form words in the fall design
challenge. The annual event was part of
an engineering practice course.
Improving communications skills was a key educational component
to the 10-week course, according to ROSEbotics' Perry.
"Learning to write a purpose-driven memo and concise progress
reports were important. This class took things to the next
step, applying things to a real-world situation," said the freshman
computer engineering student. He controlled the team's robot
to victory in six rounds of the competition.
Members of the Legonautics team were Reece Armstrong, Michael
Johnson, Ronnie Shields and Seongjin Yoon.
Other teams had the descriptive names Team Nerds, Deceptions,
Better Deceptions, Flux Capacitors and Insert Name Here.
Another robotics challenge is already being planned to test
students during the winter quarter.
"I love coming up with challenges and seeing what the students
come up with. Every robot is different," said Voltmer, an
avid puzzle solver and wordsmith. "This (fall's) contest was
a personal favorite, combining word play with game strategy.
We have found that students learn better when you make things fun
and interesting. Robotics is a great way for our students to
showcase their creativity in a team environment."
Photos from the Fall Robotics Challenge are available for