RobotX: Battlebots 2009

By Danielle Samonte

Design. Build. Battle. Imagine being able to conceptualize a machine from thin air, using only a provided list of materials and your wits. Imagine building it with your own hands and ingenuity, all the while strategizing on how your machine could out-manoeuvre, out-last and ultimately out-battle a rival robot. Now imagine watching your creation methodically and systematically taking out the competition, in the ultimate test of design and Engineering. For a group of dedicated, motivated and competitive secondary school students from all over Ontario, this fantasy became a reality May 28-31, at the third annual RobotX: Battlebots competition.

RobotX: Battlebots 2009 is an invigorating and fully hands-on initiative by the Engineering Enrichment Program within the Faculty at U of T – developed to immerse secondary school students in a week-long, live-in robotics competition to build the best battlebot. To enrich the entire learning process, each team worked closely with a RobotX Advisors Team: Patricia Sheridan (MASc candidate in MIE), Ryan Udugampola (BASc MIE), Pawel Kosicki (MASc candidate in MIE), Josh Dian (MASc candidate in ECE) and Ammad Nasir (BASc in MIE), all of whom are Engineering graduate students and mechatronics experts enlisted to guide the participants in their design process throughout the week through robotic workshops and hands-on assistance.

Similar to the circumstance of any Engineering project, RobotX teams were set with the task to design, strategize, build, and test a robot implemented within a team budget, and then challenged to battle their robot on the final day of the competition.

Between team-building time, the RobotX competitors attended seminars and explored new developments and cutting-edge research within the areas of robotics and mechatronics. The event included several prominent speakers from the Faculty: Grant Allen, ChemE, Vice Dean Undergraduate; Bruno Korst, ChemE, Manager for the ECE Undergraduate Teaching Laboratory; and Dr. Goldie Nejat, MIE.

During the opening ceremonies of RobotX: Battlebots, keynote speaker Grant Allen warmly welcomed the secondary school RobotX competitors on behalf of the Faculty, and instilled into their young minds the world of opportunity the Engineering profession and U of T Engineering has to offer. As any Engineer would know, the design process is imperative for every aspect of a project! Thus, Bruno Korst charmingly crafted an inspiring presentation that truly engaged the RobotX competitors about the importance of the process of design, and the high degree of responsibility placed upon Engineers.

To further stimulate the young minds of these future Engineers, Goldie Nejat’s multi-media presentation discussed the application of robotics and mechatronics in the military and healthcare systems, and conversed about the ingenuity of companion robots for the future, all of which captured the RobotX competitors’ fascination and attention.

On the final day of the competition, the RobotX: Battlebot Battle elicited oohs and ahhs from an audience of fellow competitors, proud parents, U of T faculty, staff, graduate and undergraduate students impressed by the innovation, high quality, and ingeniousness of the battling robots. After several intense battles, Team S.A.S.'s (Secret Air Service) Pink Panther battlebot and Team Liberty’s Freedom One (with the Hammer of Justice)’s battlebot made it to the final battle. In the end, Pink Panther stole the thunder from Freedom One (with the Hammer of Justice), and was deemed by a panel of judges the winner of RobotX: Battlebot 2009.

After a week of living in residences at U of T and interacting with members of the Faculty, the RobotX: Battlebot secondary school competitors gained new knowledge, research and skills from this rewarding and unique U of T experience to bring back to their secondary schools, and took to heart this invaluable glimpse into the innovative and vast world of robotics and Engineering.

As demonstrated in the Engineering Enrichment Program’s RobotX: Battlebot 2009 – you can do whatever you put your mind to. Hence, dreams can become reality; all it takes is a vision and passion. The RobotX competitors without a doubt exhibited these qualities, and who knows what the future may hold... perhaps aspiring robotics Engineers.


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