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Send your questions to William Sitch (firstname.lastname@example.org) - the RoboTag Course Coordinator.
General Course Questions:
What do the robots actually do?
The students have been tasked with designing robots that play tag - which is a very complicated game! Not only must their robots navigate around a large (12'x8') wooden arena, but they also must chase or flee from other robots. While the mechanics of the mobile aspect of the project are difficult, the fun is in the algorithm design: how can you program a robot to chase another robot? It's quite difficult.
What you'll see at the competition is a number of robots moving around a maze trying to flash each other with a light. Don't assume there's someone at the helm, like with a remote-control car or plane - these are fully autonomous robots that make their own decisions!
Are the robots intelligent? Do they think?
Well, no. The development environment that we're using - based on a small microcontroller board designed at MIT - limits the scope of the project to something that's manageable. The robots execute instructions (just like your computer) and try to achieve the competition goals.
A lot of the time you'll see robots doing things that don't make sense - driving right towards a predator robot, or getting stuck in the arena. Partly this is due to the incredibly complex nature of designing an autonomous robot, partly it's because even the best-made robots do wierd things sometimes.
What are the real-world applications of the work you're doing? Is there any benefit to society?
Autonomous robots are used all over the world to perform tasks that are too dangerous, or repetitive and mundane, for humans to do. Robots handle toxic waste, demine war-torn areas, handle bombs and intervene in hostage negotiation sessions. Autonomous mobile robots are used in space, on land, and even underwater!
In regards to our specific work: other than entertainment, the learning experience for the students, and the promotion of Engineering to young people - there's probably not much practical benefit to this project.
Is everyone welcome at the competition? Does it cost money?
Everyone is welcome and it's completely free. However, there are a
couple of requests that we have:
Can I bring my own robot?
Yeah! If you've got something that meets the specifications detailed on the rules and regulations, feel free to bring it out and compete! If you've got another robot that you'd just like to show off - bring it as well!
What components do the robots use?
Most use the following:
How do robots detect each other? (passive/active)?
Robots passively detect each other. Each robot is required to emit a particular type of light (modulated infrared, specifically). Each robot can also detect this light. More info is available here.