Finding the "Right" Robot Competition: Targeting Non-Engineering Undergraduates

Susan Eileen Fox

Robot competitions run the gamut from research-oriented challenges to K-12 contests aimed at basic problem-solving skills. For faculty and students at small colleges, with limited resources, finding the right level of competition can be a difficult proposition. At Macalester College we have hosted a series of robot competitions, inviting nearby colleges to participate. Our goals are to engage students with robots and artificial intelligence, to raise the profile of AI on campus, and to create ties among the different colleges. The contests succeeded in forging ties among the faculty who participated, and succeeded as extracurricular activities to interest students in computer science. The contests failed, however, to teach students much about AI and robotics techniques, and to engage students closely with sponsoring faculty members. I propose a model of local-area competitions that focus on AI and robotics concepts, rather than physical robot design, and that are respectful of the limited time and resources faculty and students have to contribute.

Subjects: 17. Robotics; 15.3 Control

Submitted: Jan 26, 2007

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