Rock ’em, sock them: the Watson Combat Robotics League pits student creations against each other

For the last week of April and the first week of May, part of the Binghamton University Engineering Building will turn into a battlefield.

The Watson Combat Robotics League (WCRL) will host its inaugural competition on weekdays from April 26 to May 7, with 13 teams competing to determine who built the most powerful robot. All matches can be watched live online.

The WCRL – co-founded by Daniel Iacobacci, computer engineering student and league president, and recent Thomas J. Watson College of Engineering and Applied Science graduate Matt Simiele – was set to debut last spring, but it has canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions on campus.

This year, the student-led competition will span two weeks, rather than the original plan of a one-day game, to allow for social distancing between the teams.

“We had four different plans depending on how COVID was working,” Iacobacci said. “We were very grateful to the Office of the Dean of Watson for approving our current model so that we could have the competition this year. We even have a few teams with remote students participating in the design part of the project. “

All matches will be streamed through the league’s YouTube page so that everyone can tune in. There’s even a ‘crowd favorite’ award for the robot that receives the most votes from viewers.

The teams, consisting of up to six members, used Watson’s newly refurbished manufacturing lab to 3D print their robots which were designed for one purpose: to destroy their opponent’s robot and survive the next round. Thirteen of the initial 26 teams that registered this year will compete in the 2021 installment. The robots are controlled in real time by the teams, keeping the original spirit of the tournament alive.

“Even though we had to ditch the big flashy event that would have been more energetic, we were still able to face teams,” said Adelaide Cagle, biomedical engineering student and tournament vice president.

There is no requirement to enter the contest other than the initial cost of the coins, and it’s not limited to Watson students – anyone can participate in the action. There are even office hours held by one of the organizers – computer engineering student and construction technician / social media manager Dillon Kane – to help students with design aspects of their robots.

The competition has five judges: Scott Craver, associate professor and undergraduate director of the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; Michael Elmore, Director of the Engineering Design Division (EDD); Melissa Simonik, Technical Communications Coordinator for the Engineering Design Division; Koenraad Gieskes, Deputy Director of the Engineering Design Division; and Douglas Summerville, ECE professor and department chair. They’ll crown a tournament champion, give the bot the most votes the crowd favorite, and award the judges a prize for the bot that features the best design and overall performance.

The competition, inspired in part by the TV show “Battlebots”, was designed as a fun and accessible way for students to learn robotics and engineering, regardless of their previous level of experience.

“We really want to involve the subclasses,” Cagle said. “As soon as you get to Binghamton, there are all these big projects you can work on, and it’s pretty scary. It’s a lot of work and dedication, and a very high level of science. So having that experience of working on a smaller project, with a smaller robot, is much easier for new students.

The competition is sponsored by Watson College, as well as EDD, the ECE Department, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

Individual league teams also received sponsorships from several organizations on campus. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and others have helped teams overcome challenges. financial obstacles. Some organizations even have teams in the current bracket and have provided mentoring.

While COVID-19 created several hurdles for the competition to overcome, those involved have always kept their end goal or accessibility in mind.

“We wanted to keep all the robots small. They’re all 3D printed, so it’s not that heavy metal or that delicate material, ”Cagle said. “It’s also a lot cheaper – you don’t have to worry about cutting metal or having teams worrying about having to do all of those fancy things.”

WCRL organizers hope that the competition can return each year as a spring semester staple for students from all academic backgrounds. Once the pandemic begins to loosen its grip on college campuses, the program may also be able to expand to include other schools in the Northeast region, as well as local high schools.

“For next year, our goal for the competition would be to double its size,” said Iacobacci. “It could be a real competition, which lasts all day. We want to invite local businesses and industry members to see what we are doing, and we hope they can support it as well. “

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