Penn State Abington (Abington PA, Philadelphia PA suburb) will
be hosting our annual Regional Firefighting Robot Contest and Robot Exhibit on Saturday,
April 13, 2013. Participants from K-12 through college and
beyond will be participating and showcasing their innovative and creative
robot designs. Over 40 robots and students from over 15 schools
participated last year, and we are expecting increased participation this
spring. Spectators of all ages are welcome, and all robot activities are
free and open to the general public. To see the list of all schools
and teams who registered for the Abington 2012 contest,
click here. To see the registration
for the Abington April 2013 contest, click here.
The rules of the Abington event are based on the
Trinity College Home Fire-Fighting
Official start time for the Penn State Abington
fire-fighting robot contest is 12pm on Saturday, April 13, 2013.
Practice session will be scheduled from
9 am to 12pm on Saturday, April 13, 2013. This time is an
optional session for students to practice and calibrate their robots prior
to the contest. This practice session is also open to the public.
The location for all events above will be Room 112
Woodland Building at Penn State Abington, in Abington, Pa (Philadelphia, PA
The firefighting robot contest is an indoor
event and will be held in any weather conditions unless there is a closure
of the campus..
(Saturday, April 13, 2013):
(all events are open to the general public)
9am - 12noon
Open practice for all firefighting robot teams
Team Check-in and Registration (Woodland Lobby)
Rm 112 Woodland Bldg
11am - 1:30pm
pizza and soda for all participants, spectators, and guests (no food or
drink allowed in auditorium or any classrooms)
Woodland Bldg. Cafe
12pm - 12:30pm
Welcome and Opening Remarks
Rm 112 Woodland Bldg
12:30pm - 4:30pm
Firefighting Robot Contest
(including Talent Show and Multi-Robot)
Rm 112 Woodland Bldg
4:30 - 5pm
Presentation of Awards and Trophies
Rm 112 Woodland Bldg
(Note: duration of contest will vary depending on number of
robot entries and other issues)
The objective of the fire-fighting robot contest is to design a
computer-controlled robot to navigate a maze (8 ft. by 8 ft.) that consists of 4 rooms. Rooms are
surrounded by walls except for a 18" entrance. A single candle is randomly
placed in one of the 4 rooms. The goal is for the mobile robot to explore the
maze, locate the candle, and extinguish the candle in the minimum time.
Robots must be within 12" of candle before extinguishing the candle. The layout
and dimensions of the maze and rooms are fully known to all contestants prior
to the contest. For the advanced divisions, the hallways and room may be
covered with carpeting. Bonuses are earned for returning to the start position after
extinguishing the candle, and allowing obstacles to be placed in the rooms. Participants
are permitted to use any combination of building materials and computer
technology. All robots must operate autonomously except for the K-5th grade
remote control division. We also offer a Robot Talent Show and a special
The rules are based on the Trinity College Home
Fire-Fighting Robot Contest which is an international robot competition to be
held at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut in April. Please
visit the Trinity College Robot Competition site by clicking
Penn State Abington
will host a regional fire-fighting robot contest and robot show on Saturday,
April 13, 2013 using the same rules as the Trinity College contest (with some
modifications and extensions.) This is the 17th year that
Abington has offered a regional firefighting robot contest!!!! Over 40
robots registered for the 2011 contest. The purpose of our contest is to have fun
about engineering, computer technologies, robotics, STEM, and artificial
intelligence. We have also expanded the scope of the Abington
contest to include remote control division for K-5th grade.
The contest is open to the public as participants and
spectators at no charge. There are no age limits for the participants.
Although many participants are students sponsored by a school or university,
it is not required that the participants be students at all -- hobbyists,
artists, hackers, students and
adults of all ages and professions are welcome. There is no charge for
registration (but on-line registration is required), and there is no charge for
attending the event as a spectator (bring the kids!).
Penn State Abington has been participating in the fire-fighting robot
competition for over 10 years and has built over 70 firefighting robots.
We have also offered robot contests (Robo-TrailBLazers
and Robo-Hoops) in December of each year since 1995 that have been open to
students of all ages. Teams from Philadelphia area colleges, high schools,
middle schools, and grade schools, as well as teams from New Jersey, New York,
and Maryland have been participating in the Penn State robot contests.
From PA Turnpike take interchange # 343
(formerly #27), follow Rt. 611 South 3.4
miles to Abington, turn
left on Woodland Road, look for Abington Hospital on right and Inn Flight
left. Follow Woodland road for 0.5 miles. Campus is on right. Take first
right (past Cloverly Lane) and park. Go through main entrance of Woodland
stone bldg. adjacent to parking lot). Upon entering Woodland bldg., enter
first set of doors
to your left -- this is room 112W, the auditorium. You could also proceed
enter auditorium from lobby. You will see us when you get there! (From Phila.,
take Rt. 611 north, past Rt. 73, and make right onto Woodland Road.)
For more information on directions, click
There are several divisions in which to
participate in the fire fighting robot contest:
(Participants compete against robots within the same division)
1.- Firefighting Senior Division (standard maze;
autonomous robots; college level or beyond; 1st, 2nd, 3rd place trophy
2.- Firefighting High School Division
(standard maze; autonomous robots; high school level; 1st, 2nd, 3rd place
3.- Firefighting Junior Division
(entry maze; autonomous robots; 8th grade or younger; 1st, 2nd , 3rd place
4.- Firefighting Remote Control Division(entry maze; 5th grade or younger;
trophies for successful completion)
5.- Robot Talent Show (any age
group; robots will be demonstrated for audience at the contest site; it is
not necessary that robot be a firefighting robot; any innovative robot
invention is welcome. trophies for all
participants; robots may participate in robot talent show and also other
divisions of the contest.)
Challenge (optional division; autonomous only; 2 or more
robots must use multi-robot communication and coordination to extinguish 2
candles which are randomly located in 2 rooms of the maze (max of one candle
per room.). All age groups may participate. Robots may participate in both the single-robot and
multi-robot divisions. See rules below. Several awards will be
presented in this category.
7. Creativity and
Innovation Awards (trophies) will be awarded. All
robots in the contest divisions are eligible for the creativity and
innovation awards determined by the judges. It
is not necessary for robots to be successful in the firefighting robot
contest in order to be eligible for a creativity and innovation award.
It is important that teachers and/or participants notify judges that they
want to be considered for a creativity and innovation award.
There are no cash awards. We want to
keep the emphasis on education, learning, discovery and fun, and less on the
The official rules of the fire-fighting robot contest have
been developed and are maintained by Trinity College and the Connecticut
Robotics Society. The Trinity rules can be accessed by clicking
Here is a summary of the basic rules of the
Abington Regional Firefighting robot contest:
The objective is
for the robot to locate and extinguish the candle in
the minimum amount of time.
Robots may be
constructed and programmed using any hardware or software
materials and resources.
Participants may be of
any age or affiliation from K-12, high school, college, or
beyond. (Affiliation with a school or organization is not required.)
Robot maximum size is limited to
12.25 inches by 12.25
inches by 12.25 inches. No sensor can be higher than 10 inches from ground.
Robots may not look over the walls in any way. This max volume also
includes any attachments to the robot (balloons, arms, etc) , and the max
volume rule is enforced during the entire time the robot is in operation.
A single lit candle is placed randomly in one of the 4
rooms of the maze. The height of the lower
portion of the flame is between 6 inches and 8 inches from surface.
The robot scoreis essentially the time (in seconds) required for the robot to locate
and extinguish the candle. The robot with the fastest time, and therefore
the lowest point score, is declared the winner. There are bonuses and
penalties that apply -- see details below.
There are 2 basic versions of the maze:
1) entry maze (used for remote control
division and junior division); this entry maze has a painted black surface;
4 rooms; no carpeting; no mirrors; no wall hangings; 2)
standard maze (used for all high school and senior divisions);
this maze has 4 rooms; assorted floor carpeting (optional bonus); wall hangings; one or more wall-mounted mirrors). Both mazes
(entry and standard) have the same basic dimensions and room
layouts (see diagrams below). Location of carpeting, wall hangings, mirror may
change for each run in the standard maze. (There is no staircase
at all in the contest arena.)
The maze dimensions and layout are known
prior to the contest (see diagram). Any
dimension may vary by up to an inch of the labeled value.
The robot must be
fully autonomous. (no radio-control, IR control, etc.) except for special K-5th grade remote control division.
No wire (tether)
may connect the robot to an external computer (no human operator) and/or
external power supply (this is new rule for 2009)..
There is no penalty for a wireless connection (see below), but
even with a wireless connection from the robot to a computer, the robot
operation must be autonomous.
The robot must move to within 12 inches of the candle before
the robot extinguishes the candle. A white circle (12 inch radius) of thin
poster board is positioned on the maze floor with the candle at the center.
The robot is not permitted to
"look" over the walls of the
The robot is not permitted to climb over the walls of the
The robot is permitted
to touch the walls at any time during the run (with no
The robot will always
start at the fixed home start position in the maze for every
run (except for arbitrary start mode option). There is a white circle (12.25" diameter) at the fixed home start
position. The robot must be completely on the start circle, but can be
in any orientation (that is, the robot may be facing any direction). The
contestants choose the orientation.
The candle will be positioned randomly
within a room. The candle will be at least 3 inches from any wall.
The candle will not be positioned at the
entrance of the room. In all cases, the robot will be able to enter
the room (12 inches minimum) without making contact with the candle or the
white poster board circle surrounding the candle.
The robot is not permitted to touch the candle
in any way when the candle is lit (otherwise there is a
50 point penalty). There is no penalty for touching the candle after the
candle is extinguished.
Each robot will be
provided 2 opportunities to locate and extinguish the candle.
A robot that successfully extinguishes the candle two times will receive a
final score equal to the average of the two scores. Robots that successfully
extinguish the candle 2 times will be rated higher than robots with only one
successful run, regardless of the run times. (See below for more
For a successful
completion of the task, it must be clear to the judges that the robot
has located and identified the candle. We recommend that the
robot emit a sound and/or momentarily stop motion when the robot finds the
bonuses for returning to the home position after extinguishing the
candle, sound activation, avoiding furniture obstacles, extinguishing the candle without blowing air, and others (see
Robots are also
invited to participate in a robot talent show in which robots
can demonstrate interesting and entertaining behavior independent of the
firefighting robot contest rules.
The contest will be
held in an auditorium setting. Spectators may be using cameras
(with flashes) and video cameras which might emit light or some type
of radiation to the arena. Robots should be robust enough to operate in
the presence of flash cameras and video cameras. Spectators will be
encouraged to use camera and video devices at any time during contest.
You should test your robot operation with a camera flash.
There is no
official qualification, but we are expecting all robots can successfully move from
the start position to a position completely inside any one of the four
rooms (as chosen by robot team). All major development and testing
should be done prior to the contest.
Here is a summary of the optional bonuses
and penalties (these numeric factors are multiplied by the time taken to
extinguish the candle; more than one option/penalty can apply). These
are the only bonuses supported at the Abington Regional contest.
Sound Activation (robot starts in response
to a 3KHz - 4KHz tone; not clapping) ---------------- 20% reduction (factor =
Return Trip (robot returns to home position after
extinguishing candle) ----------------------------- 20% reduction (factor = 0.80)
Furniture (a cylinder obstacle is placed in each of the 4 rooms)
-------------------------------------- 25% reduction (factor = 0.75)
Arbitrary Start (robot is placed in random
start position in random room without candle) --------- 20% reduction (factor = 0.80)
Randomly located carpets----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
30% reduction (factor = 0.70) Note: new option for 2013
There is also a room factor that is applied to
your overall time from start to extinguishing the candle. (This only applies
to robots that operate in the 4-room mode)
Candle found in first room explored -------- 1.0 factor
Candle found in second room explored ----- 0.85 factor
Candle found in third room explored -------- 0.50 factor
Candle found in fourth room explored ------- 0.35 factor
The Penn State Abington contest
rules deviate from the official Trinity College rules in the
Walls of the maze at Penn State Abington will be
inches high (as opposed to 10 - 13 inches for the official Trinity contest).
The reason for this is to increase visibility of the robots by the spectators. The
robots participating in the PSU Abington contest can be a maximum of 12.25
inches (same as Trinity), but the robots may not "look" over the 10 inch
walls. This will be enforced by visual inspection of sensor position,
sequence of robot motion through maze, etc. This max volume also includes
any attachments to the robot (balloons, arms, etc) , and the max volume rule
is enforced during the entire time the robot is in operation..
The maze walls are 3/4 inch thick and are placed on the
edge of the 8ft. by 8ft. arena. This reduces the inside dimensions of the
maze area by 3/4 inch around the entire perimeter.
There will be *no* "ramp or non-dead-reckoning
or "uneven floor"
option available for the Penn State Abington fire-fighting contest.
There will be a no "qualification" process required in the Penn State
Abington fire-fighting contest, but we are expecting all robots be minimally able to demonstrate, prior to the contest start
(between 9am and 12noon), that the robot can successfully navigate from the start position to any one
of the 4 rooms (room is picked by the robot team). A robot which does
not reliably extinguish the candle will still be eligible to participate in
the contest and be eligible for technical and creativity awards.
There will be *no* Expert Division
or Walking Robot Division at
the Penn State Abington contest.
Participants using "sound activation" will be required to
use their own sound generator (however, the generator will be
activated/operated by the judges.)
There will be a "Single Room" mode
at the Penn State Abington contest. A participant
may elect to have the candle placed randomly within any one room specified by the
contestant. Any one of the 4 rooms may be selected. The position of the candle
may not be specified, only the room. In this mode, a penalty of 3
minutes (180 seconds/points) will be added to the raw score. This mode is available to the
junior, high school, and senior divisions. The single room mode is not
available at the Trinity College contest - Abington regional contest only.
There will be *no* entry-level high
school division at the Abington contest. The "single room mode"
above is appropriate for entry level participants. All high school
robots (whether entry level or not) will be required to use the standard maze,
which contains carpeting (optional bonus), wall hangings, etc. This
division has also been removed form the official Trinity College contest.
There will be *no* penalty for touching the walls
of the maze in any way. However, robots may not damage, mark, or scratch
wall in any way. There is a small time penalty for wall-following at
the Trinity Fire-fighting robot contest -- check official rules -- but not
at the Abington contest.
Each robot will be provided 2 opportunities
to extinguish a candle within a maze. (3 trials will be allowed based on the
time remaining and will be decision of the judges.) A robot that manages to
extinguish a candle in only 1 of the 2 tries (in any mode) will be
eligible for recognition, but will ranked lower in standing than every robot
that was able to extinguish the candle 2 or more times (in any mode), regardless of the
score. This ruling favors robots that are reliable. Reliability
is an important characteristic for a robot that will be responsible to
extinguishing a fire in a home or factory. The final score for a robot
that successfully extinguishes the candle 2 times will be the average of the
two time scores.
Total run time for the
robot will be limited to 3 minutes. Additionally, the
total time for the return trip will be limited to 3 minutes.
in the maze will be an optional bonus for the high school and senior
Any robot that violates the "spirit" of the
contest will be disqualified.
There is no
distinction made between robot kits and unique robots at the Abington
contest. We expect that any robot "kit" has been modified sufficiently in
hardware and/or software.
There is no "variable
door" location mode in the Abington contest.
The Penn State Abington fire-fighting robot contest will
be limited to a total of45 robot entries. Based
on time of registration -- register now! If you are at least 50% sure you
will be able to participate, then register now.
Challenge. There is a special, optional "multi-robot"
challenge in 2013 for the Abington contest. Two or more robots will be challenged to extinguish
2 candles (each candle in a separate room; room locations and candle
positions are random) and there must be some demonstration of robot
communication and coordination. The robots must clearly indicate when
both candles have been extinguished -- each robot in the team must indicate
an "All Clear" message (either audible or displayed on a screen,
Robots in the multi-robot challenge may also participate in the other
division in the contest. There will be separate awards for the
multi-robot challenge. Each team in the multi-robot division will be
asked to briefly describe the technical details of the solution to the
judges and may be asked to disclose listings of software for review.
The scoring in the multi-robot challenge will consist of 2 parts. One
part (total of 10 points) will be based on the total time to
extinguish both candles, and another part (10 points) will be based on the
technical approach and innovations used for the multi-robot coordination and
communication. There will no separate divisions or bonuses for the
The starting area for the multi-robot team will be in an expanded
start area (as opposed to a 12" by 12" area for the standard, single
robot contest). All robots in the team must fit within the
mullti-robot (MR) expanded start area defined in an "L" shape around the
start circle (see maze diagram below). Max height of each robot is 12.25 inches
and robots may be in any orientation initially (decided by contestants). The
expanded MR start area consists of the 18'' by 18" square area with the
start circle at the center, plus an additional 18" by 18" (width of hallway)
area extension down each of the 2 hallways extending from the start circle
area (see maze diagram below). This extended area does not intersect any walls. Max size
for any individual robot in a team is 12.25" by 12.25" by 12.25". Robots may be
stacked vertically, but total height cannot exceed 12.25" and no sensor can
exceed 10" in height. Only one robot in the team
will be started manually -- the other robots must start based on
communication with this single, manually-started robot. There is no
limit to the number of robots in the team. All other rules in the
contest apply. There wil be no carpets in the maze for the multi-robot
option. There is no arbitrary start mode, no room factors for the
multi-robots. No bonuses will be applied. See contest coordinator for more details and any
updates. There is no specification on the tasks to be performed by
each robot, but some robot coordination and communication must be
demonstrated. Any type of wireless technology can be used for the multi-robot
communication (IR, radio, WiFi, Bluetooth, etc). Here is an
example of some XBee radio communication using RobotC software with
examples, labs and videos.
you do not have to use this technology, but it might serve as a useful
starting point, Be creative.
Robot Talent Show Division In this mode,
robot creations that are not specifically designed for the competition, but
are really cool, entertaining, and/or useful can be demonstrated. Please
contact the organizers if you would like to bring a robot for show.
Ideally, a robot in this division would operate in the fire-fighting maze,
but would not be expected to achieve any of the tasks expected of a
traditional fire-fighting robot (that is, you can break any existing rules
and invent your own rules.) These robots will not be in competition with the
fire-fighting robots. This event is non-competitive in nature. Invent your
own version of "Stupid Robot Tricks!" A robot in this exhibition event is
also permitted to participate in the other competitions, if desired. Your
innovation might inspire future changes in the fire-fighting contest.
Consider areas such as a team robot event, search and rescue, robot pet
demonstrations, aerial robots, dancing robots, etc. Be inventive.
Remote Control Robot Division.In this division, students in K through 5th grade are
permitted to use remote control to move the robot through the maze -- no
programming is required. It is possible to use Lego Mindstorm RCX/NXT, VEX, etc. (or equivalent technology) robots in the firefighting contest,
using any type of remote control devices. A candle will be located randomly in
one of the 4 rooms of the maze. This division is non-competitive and will
not be timed. Each student that successfully completes the task of
extinguishing the candle will be eligible for a prize. Students in this
division will be given a maximum of 2 trials with a maximum time of 3
minutes per trial. A student is also permitted to activate stored programs
on the robot. It is expected that the students played a major role in
designing the mechanical aspects of the robots. (It is also expected that
the students received some help from teachers and/or parents) Any
robot kit may be used for this event. A parent, teacher or coach may
accompany the student or student team for this event.
Participants will receive
trophies and certificates based on the
performance of their robots. Prizes will be awarded as deemed appropriate by
the judges. Other awards or prizes will be announced the day of the competition.
All participants must register their robot.
Please submit one registration form per robot. The registration process
can be accomplished via the web form below. Fill out the form, then click on
the "submit" button. There is *no* charge for registration.
Registration will be limited to a total of 50
robots. The deadline for registration is April 1, 2013.
Registration will be closed when the total number of robots reaches 50 or the final date for
registration is reached -- whichever comes first. Please register early --
early registration helps us promote the event, solicit funding, and plan food
requirements, etc. If you think there is at least a 50% chance you will
participate, then register immediately. (If you miss the
deadline, please contact organizers to see if there is a spot available - but
no guarantees.) If you are registered, and for some reasons you are
unable to attend, please email organizers.
You may change the name of the robot during
check-in/registration on the day of the contest. All robot teams must
check-in and receive a scoring sheet on the day of the contest in the
Woodland Building lobby prior to competing in the contest. Also,
decisions to enter robot talent show and multi-robot options can be modified
at check-in time.
Please notify contest organizers (by email) if you are
registered and determine later that you are unable to attend.
Arena Layout Diagrams (reference: Trinity
College Fire Fighting Contest website; contest maze layout is same as the maze layout as shown below)
Shaded areas shown above in the standard maze shows an example of carpeted
areas. Carpeted areas will not be limited to those shown in the
example. Carpeted areas may be positioned in any hallway or room, and
may be of any size. Shag carpets will not be allowed.
Note: There is no "staircase" in the any of the arenas.
Robot participants should bring their own
computer. Workspace will be provided. No onsite computers will
be available to non-PSU students. No public internet is
available on campus!!!!!
We will have a single maze
available so that participants will have
time to calibrate sensors and such, but the practice session is not suitable
for major development work. Be prepared to work quickly and efficiently. All participants will be sharing the maze in
some equitable manner.
There is no free Internet or wireless
Internet available at the robot contest to non-Penn State students.
However, there is a campus-wide ATT wifi network that requires payment. This
ATT wifi service is not maintained by Penn State Abington. Payment for the
ATT Wifi is made over internet with credit card or other payment methods
Robot participants should bring their own tools
(soldering irons, glue guns, duct tape, batteries, power strips, etc.)
Robot participants should bring an extension cord to run
any of the above equipment.
We are planning to provide free pizza and
soft drinks to participants and guests from 11:30 am to 1pm. Other
snacks or meals are the responsibility of the participants. Vending machines provide soda, candy, snacks only. Please join us
for pizza. You are free to bring your own food and drink supplies. There are
several fast-food restaurants within a mile or two of the campus. NO FOOD OR DRINKS ARE PERMITTED IN THE WOODLAND BUILDING LABS OR AUDITORIUM.
Dress is very casual.
Practice will be held from 9am to 12pm in
Room 112 Woodland Building on same day as contest only.
Participants will be provided suitable areas
to setup and work on robots.
1. How much help can students accept from adults,
teachers, mentors, etc.?
Students should play a significant role in the
design and development of their robots. Students should be encouraged to
consult parents, teachers, engineers, etc., for help, guidance, suggestions, and
assistance, but the majority of the design and implementation should be done
by the students. For example, if an adult (e.g. parent) writes the
software program for a robot for a high
school or middle school student, then the robot should be entered into the
senior division. (We are using the guidelines described by the Trinity
College Fire Fighting Robot contest.) Forward any questions to the contest
2. What is the best way to prepare for this
contest if you are new to robotics?
One of the best ways to get started in robotics and prepare for this
robot contest (and others) is to purchase a Lego NXT Mindstorms Robotics kit. These robot kits can be purchased from local toy stores and
on-line vendors such as Amazon.com or Lego Pitsco (www.pldstore.com) for approximately $200
to $300. These kits
include Lego building materials, motors, wheels, gears, light sensors, bump
sensors, and software. There are many resources including building and
programming instructions and examples on the web. Lego Mindstorms robot
kits have been used successfully in K-8, high school, and college courses.
There exist many programming languages to support the Lego Mindstorms robot
kits including RCX /NXT code (visual), ROBOLAB (visual), Not Quite C (freeware),
RobotC, Java, Visual Basic, and others. There are
other popular robot controllers such as VEX, Basic Stamp, BasicX, HandyBoard,
Arduino, PIC, and
many others. Contact Penn State organizers to get more
3. What has changed for the Abington 2013
regional firefighting contest compared to previous contests?
There is a special, optional
"multi-robot" challenge in 2013 (this was first offered in 2012,
and was a great success). Two or more robots in a
team will be challenged
to extinguish 2 candles (each candle in a separate room) and there must be
some demonstration of robot communication and coordination. The robots
must clearly indicate when both candles have been extinguished. See
above rules for details. Robots in the multi-robot challenge may also
participate in the other division in the contest. There will be
separate awards for the multi-robot challenge. Any type of technology can be
used for the multi-robot communication (IR, radio, WiFi, Bluetooth,
etc), Here is an example of some XBee radio communication using RobotC
software with examples, labs and videos.
you do not have to use this technology, but it might serve as a useful
starting point, Be creative.
Carpeting in the maze will be an optional
bonus for the high school and senior division. (In past years, presence of
the carpeting in the maze was required for all high school and senior
We have made a few clarifications on the
rules which will be enforced in 2012 and will be valid for 2013:
1) If a robot knocks over a candle which physically results in the candle
being extinguished, then this will *not* be considered a successful
completion of the task. It must be clear to the judges that the
extinguishing mechanism of the robot was primarily responsible for
extinguishing the candle.
2) The "Sound" start should be activated by
the appropriate tone, not by an arbitrary loud sound such as clapping.
The motivation behind this sound activation bonus is a robot which responds
to a fire alarm, not an arbitrary loud sound. Participants who desire
the bonus for the sound activation must demonstrate that the robot responds
to the appropriate tone but not to other sounds such as a clap. All
participants are required to bring their own device to generate the tone.
It is permissible to have robots start by responding to loud noises (such as
a clap), but this will not result in a sound activation bonus.
For the 2013 contest, we have a "voluntary"
qualification requirement -- all robots should have minimal functionality to
enter the contest. That is, all robots should minimally be able to enter one
room of the maze.
There is no "staircase"
option in the maze for the contest (for any division). We are also offering the arbitrary start
position option in the Abington contest (robot will be placed in
random location in random orientation in one of the rooms which does not
have candle) Additionally, there are
no "tethered" robots allowed in the Abington current contest (as is
also the case at
the Trinity College contest.) A wireless connection (IR, Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth, etc) between robot and external computer is allowed.
4. What were some of the major challenges
faced by the contestants in previous contests?
For one, a key challenge for most
participants was the effect of the carpeting on the robots (high school and
senior division). NOTE: Carpeting is an
optional bonus in the 2013 regional contest. Carpets can be located anywhere on the floor of the maze and some robots were
unable to move or turn successfully on carpets. This is a challenging part of the
contest, and it created problems for robots which use shaft encoders and are
low torque. Please practice all turns with and without carpets prior to
arriving at the contest. Also, some
robots were very sensitive to the height of the flame of the candle. The
rules specify the bottom of the flame will be between 6 inches and 8 inches,
but there is no way of knowing what the height will be when you make the
run. You need to practice with flames at different heights in the 6 to 8
Also, some teams expected to do a good deal of development and programming
work the morning of the contest. This is very unrealistic and can lead
to frustration. Robots should be fully operational and tested prior to the
event, and students should expect there will be a small amount of time to
practice in the maze to calibrate and adjust sensors. Managing a complex
project and scheduling practice and test time is an important element in the
experience. Keep the robots simple and robust.
5. Will the location of the carpets in
the standard maze change every time a robot is run?
Yes, for participants using the standard maze
(which is all high school, college, and beyond), the carpets will be placed
randomly in the maze for each run. This does not apply to the junior
division or the remote control division (for which there is no carpet).
6. Is it permitted to place a
continuously powered-on fan on the robot in which the fan is turned on from the
time the robot leaves the start position (assuming that when the robot
approaches the candle, the fan will extinguish the candle)?
No, it is permitted to use a fan (propeller
attached to a motor) to extinguish the candle, but the fan may not be
powered (turned-on) prior to the robot moving to within 12 inches of the candle. In the
past, there have been robots which start with a fan permanently powered-on
while the robot moves through the maze. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult
to prove that the candle flame is not affected by the fan before the robot
moves to within 12 inches to the candle. This approach also is not
consistent with the theme of the event in which it should be clear to
observers that the robot did indeed find the candle, and did not extinguish
the candle by accident. Maintaining a continuously powered fan on a
robot is equivalent to a fire truck which begins to spray water into the air
as it leaves the fire station and then hopes to extinguish the fire as the
fire truck moves into the vicinity of a real fire -- not a good design.
7. Is it permitted to us a wet sponge
to extinguish the candle?
Yes, however the sponge should make contact
with the flame at initial contact. Also, it is important to remember
that any arms or other appendages (balloons, etc) are considered part of the
robot, and the robot (including all attachments) must remain in the maximum
volume specified by rules (12.25 inches on a side). This is enforced the
entire time the robot is in operation. As mentioned above, if the
sponge physically knocks over the candle and the candle is extinguished due
to the fall or physical displacement of the candle, then this would not be
considered a successful completion of the task.
Is it permitted to use an inflated balloon to extinguish the candle?
Yes, but it is important to remember that any
arms or other appendages (including balloons) are considered part of the
robot, and the robot (along with any attachments such as a balloon) must
remain in the maximum volume specified by rules (12.25 inches on a side).
This is enforced the entire time the robot is in operation. It is also
recommended that the robot clearly indicate that the candle has been
detected -- this can be indicated by change in motion or an audible sound.
It is in violation of the rules to have a robot move around randomly in the
maze with a balloon in the hopes of a random encounter with a candle.
Some level of candle/flame detection is required.
9. What is an "autonomous" robot?
An autonomous robot is a robot which is computer controlled and operates
without any human intervention. An autonomous robot generally has an
onboard computer which executes the software to interpret data from sensors,
makes decisions, and controls the motors and other mechanisms. Autonomous robots must
have sensors to gather information about the outside world such as light
intensity, obstacles, and temperature. By contrast, a remote-controlled robot,
or tele-operated robot, is a robot which is controlled by a human operator.
Remote control robots generally do not have sensors because the human operator
is gathering information and the human is commanding the robot to move and
behave. Autonomous robots are generally considered more complex than
remote-controlled robots because autonomous robots do not rely on human
intelligence to make decisions, and these autonomous robots must operate
independently and intelligently. In the real world there are some
applications which are best served by remote-controlled robots and some
applications that are best served by autonomous robots. The firefighting
robot contest requires robots to be autonomous for the junior, high school,
and senior levels. When you see battle robots fighting each other on TV,
these battle bots are remote-controlled robots, not autonomous robots.
One of the advantages of autonomous robots in an
educational setting is that students can learn about the mechanics of a robot
and also learn about programming languages, sensors, and software design.