News Release

Final Exam Frenzy: It Was the Battle of the Robots for Engineering Students

June 19, 2006 -- At UCSD, stacking plastic rings is more than just child’s play.   Last Thursday, more than 200 engineering students gathered in the main gymnasium, as they battled it out to see whose robot could lift, move and restack rings the fastest.  It was the intense and hilarious culmination to MAE3, the grueling mechanical engineering design course that had students working up to 40 hours per week to perfect their robots.          

Instructor Nate Delson says his one-year-old daughter gave him the inspiration for this year’s assignment.   “I was watching her play one day and thought about how a toddler is more dexterous than the most advanced robot.  I thought it would be interesting to develop the contest around one of her toys.” 

Team Line for Lasercamm (l) battles it out with team Yogi the Robot (r) in the final showdown of the MAE3 robot design contest.
Students worked on teams of four, and their final grade depended on their ability to design and build a robot to specification, document and analyze their design, and communicate the results in a flash-filled ad.  And if making the grade was not motivation enough, the reality of the finals-week competition drove the students to succeed.

 Dozens of students cheered on as team after team battled their bots during one-minute single elimination heats.  The robot who stacked the most rings on the playing field poles moved on.  Forty-seven teams competed, but in the end it came down to two: Yogi the Robot, with their simple but elegant fork lift design featuring a center rod that could lift opponents’ rings out of play; and Line for Lasercamm, with their aggressive three-pronged extending arms which literally covered all the poles and prevented their challengers from scoring any points. 

The Winners: Line for Lasercamm team members (l-r) Daniel Chavez, Andrew Gnade, Amar Ollero, and Billy Hayes
“We decided at our first meeting that the best way to win was to block our opponents,” says Amar Ollero of Line for Lasercamm.  And that strategy paid off as Lasercamm finished the day undefeated and took home the MAE3 trophy and this year’s bragging rights.

Ollero says the students also benefited from some important engineering lessons: “Our team clicked from day one.  This class is all about learning how to work on teams.  Each of us took a task, but also needed to work together on the whole system.”

And why a robot contest?

The Runner-Ups: Yogi the Robot team members (l-r) Adam Haroz, Mike Abeck, Jacob Na, and A.J. Sutton.
   “I never know what the students will come up with because there is no right answer,” says Delson.  This is truly is an exploration for our students., and that is what engineering design is all about.”


Media Contacts

Denine Hagen
Jacobs School of Engineering