OUR GENERAL TREND – learning through the robotics competitions
The LRC is involved in following robotic contests at the pre-university and university level:
FIRST – This robotic competition was initiated by Dean Kamen (generally known as the inventor of the Segway) in order to promote robotics among high school students. Israel has participated in this competition for the last four years, with dozens of high schools competing each year. The required robot tasks are changed every year. The hardware is supplied by the organizers, and with the help of industry volunteers the robots are completed in six weeks time. The winners participate in the international championship conducted every year in the United States. Faculty members and staff of the mechanical engineering department have taken part as referees in this Technion-supported competition for several years.(See a detailed description of the First competition in and URL: http://www.usfirst.org/who/default.aspx?id=34).
ROBOCUP – This competition is the world cup for football-playing robots. (The Americans call this “soccer”). Each team of robots is equipped with the ability to detect and track the ball, recognize the goal location, and run with the ball to score a goal. For the past four years students at the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion have developed several prototypes of football-playing robots, and they plan to develop an entire team in order to participate in the ROBOCUP competition. (See a detailed description of the ROBOCUP project in URL: http://www.robocup.org/Intro.htm).
FIRE FIGHTING – This contest is the first in which Israeli students have taken part. The goal of the fire fighting robot contest is to build a mobile robot with all the mechanical, electrical, and computer components necessary to enable it to travel through a maze, detect a source of fire, and extinguish it. For the last 10 years, this contest has drawn some 35 Israeli high schools to compete each year, and the Israeli regional winners have consistently taken first place in the international competition held at Trinity College in Connecticut. The Technion has suggested awarding the Fire Fighting contest winners from Israel with full one-year scholarships. This initiative is a significant factor for our High School students to study advanced technologies at the Technion in the future. (See a detailed description of the FIRE FIGHTING contest in URL: http://www.trincoll.edu/events/robot/Photos/default.asp).
ROBOTRAFFIC – This is a new initiative of the LRC, and its aim is to teach safer driving through robotic competition. The vision is to provide early education in traffic laws and the physical limitations of vehicles and drivers, and to create ways to make the road “smarter” in order to reduce the unacceptably high accident rate for youngsters (and adults) in Israel. This will be achieved through a robotic competition that by its nature will attract the attention of young people. The unique ROBOTRAFFIC initiative will start in Israel, and will eventually became an international event. Students will develop basic models in the robotic Laboratory of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering at the Technion according to scenarios and rules that are currently being established. (See a detailed description of the ROBOTRAFFIC competition in URL: www.robotraffic.com).
One of the Center’s goals is to enhance the comprehensive robotics research. The multidisciplinary nature of robotics requires collaboration among researchers with expertise in robotics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, wireless communication, advanced sensors, mechanical design and educational robotics. From an educational point of view, robotics has been proven to be a very effective tool to attract and educate talented university and school students.