Fri08292014

Schools

Community Botball robotics teams win big at Northern California tourney


Photo By: Courtesy of Botball STaff
Photo Courtesy Of Botball Staff

Lauren Yang and Brandon Huang set up their winning robots for a match at the Northern California Regional Botball Tournament.

Four teams of students from Los Altos competed against 15 Bay Area teams at the Northern California Regional Botball Tournament April 27, racking up a number of victories.

The competition, held at Independence High School in San Jose, finished with three of the Los Altos teams placing first, second and third overall; first, second and third in seeding; first and second in double elimination; and first and second in documentation. One team won the Overall Judges’ Choice Award, and another earned the Outstanding Sub-System Award.

Several teams will advance to the International Botball tournament to defend their 2012 International Championship.

The Botball Educational Robotics Program engages middle- and high-school-aged students in a team-oriented robotics competition. Botball robots are autonomous and rely on computer programming to start, stop and maneuver on the game board. The teams build robots from a predefined set of parts and use a Linux-based robot controller developed by the KISS Institute for Practical Robotics. Students program their robots using the C language.

After eight weeks of planning and development, teams take their robots to the regional tournament to compete against others in the current season’s game challenge. Each season presents a unique challenge.

The tournament consists of a seeding round, in which each team runs its robots alone on the game board, and a double-elimination round, in which two teams run on the game board at the same time, competing against each other. Teams are judged on their documentation and presentation of the process and lessons learned.

“The Botball tournament days are my favorite days of the year,” said Michael Schuh, competition announcer and local Botball team organizer. “I love seeing how intensely the students compete with their very creative and impressive robot designs. They are clearly having lots of fun and are fully engaged. It is heartening to spend time with such bright and talented youth.”

While most Botball teams are school-based, the Los Altos team is a community effort that includes students from Los Altos, Mountain View, Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose. Team members’ parents coach the teams.

The Los Altos teams prioritize learning how to build and program capable robots and working together as a team over winning.

According to Schuh, Botball is a great opportunity for students, team leaders, mentors and parents to network and interact with others who share an interest in educational robotics.

NASA is the major sponsor of Botball, giving potential scientists and engineers the opportunity to collaborate on fun and creative projects.

For more information, call Schuh at 965-8037 or visit Botball.org or LosAltosRobotics.org.

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