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Robotics: Can You Spell Success?

November 18, 2011

Robotics Contest 23  

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
students.

 

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 tournament champion.

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 competition.

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 course.

Robotics Cheering On  

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 viewing on Facebook .