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Video Building Sumo Robots With the Brain Monkeys Crew (Video) 15

Ann Arbor based Brain Monkeys is an education company that teaches kids about robots and technology. With the help of her staff, founder Katie Tilton teaches a wide variety of after school classes, workshops, and summer school programs designed to let kids learn through hands-on activities. Recently, I was lucky enough to visit for one of their "Speed Sumo" nights. Kids get a NXT LEGO kit and 90 mins to build a robot that can push another robot out of a small sumo ring. Students get a basic tutorial on what makes a good sumo robot, then are free to come up with designs that they think will work best. Some of the more interesting features I saw included claws, a wedged shaped nose, and a flail-like tail (shout out to The Hammer!). Once the 90 minute build time is up the kids battle it out in the ring with the winner getting a high-five and bragging rights for building the most awesome robot of the night. Katie says: "Every day of the week I teach somewhere. I'm basically a teacher with art on a cart, but I'm robots in a car."

Katie: My name is Katie Tilton, and I'm the owner of Brain Monkeys. We're an education company that teaches kids about robotics and technology and anything hacking. We do Arduino classes, after school classes, I do a summer camp, lots of different stuff.

Tonight, we're going to be doing a Sumo Battle Bot competition. I call it speed sumo and pie, because I like pie. And, basically what it entails is the kids come in and they get a kit, which is an NXT LEGO kit. It's a robot kit. It is complete with various different pieces. They have 90 minutes to build a robot.

Basically, it has three Servo motors and two wheels, and the objective is to stay within the confines of the Sumo Battle Bot ring, which is basically a round piece of wood painted black with a white ring around it. They have to stay within that ring and then knock the other person out of the ring.

So they've got 90 minutes, and it's kind of challenging. You see, I kind of came up with this idea because I got sick and tired of seeing the kids build the same robot year after year at summer camp. It was just the basic tribot, LEGO, drive forward kind of robot. So I figured maybe if I gave them a kit with nothing started first, they could come up with weird different designs. And we see lots of different things. We see things where the wheels are out here. I've seen one where it has just had one wheel in the front and one wheel in the back. All different kind of stuff.

We take some of the kids and we talk to them about what the basic bot is. What makes a good base? Should your robot be high off the ground or low to the ground? Should it be wide? Should it have lots of pieces? That kind of stuff. What makes a good robot base?

To stay within the ring, we teach them how to use a sensor called a light sensor, which basically just measures a variance of black and white. So it can tell, basically, where the white edge is versus the black dot of the sumo ring.

I give them rules, printed off. These are like the official Brain Monkey Sumo Bot rules. Only two bots in the ring at a time. They can only push the robot, the On button once, when we say "battle." We give them points - 10 points if they win, 5 points if they lose - and we use a little grid over their scoreboard. Sometimes we'll have two different rounds, and we add up all the scores and the winner is awesome. We give him a high-five.

I teach all the time. Every day of the week I teach somewhere. I'm basically a teacher with art on a cart, but I'm robots in a car.

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Building Sumo Robots With the Brain Monkeys Crew (Video)

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Video is three minutes. Robots fight for only fifteen seconds. That is a poor ratio.

  • No Monkeys (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Marcion ( 876801 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @02:03PM (#43538777) Homepage Journal

    All very worthy no doubt, but I expected monkey brains installed in a robot...

  • by JeanCroix ( 99825 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2013 @02:10PM (#43538817) Journal
    Too many specialized robots lately. If we could create a monkey brain-powered, noodle-making, furniture-building, sumo-fighting UBERrobot, then.. Profit!
    • I, for one, welcome our new "monkey brain-powered, noodle-making, furniture-building, sumo-fighting UBERrobot" overlords!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    LTU in Southfield sponsors a worldwide robotics contest every year called Robofest.

    Robosumo in the fall, other activities in the spring. I will be there on Saturday with my students and their robots.

    We chose Robofest over First Robotics because of the programming challenge. All robots are completely autonomous. First has stonger engineering challenges. Both are great opportunities for students to learn. I highly recommend this for any and every school to engage students in

  • I sure couldn't hack together a robot like that in 90 minutes

  • The kids seem to only use the sensors as a bare minimum (in this case they are specifically directed to use the light sensor to stay in the ring). I'd be far more impressed if the sensor use were to play a larger part, over and above whether the kids can make a "piece of cheese" shaped robot, or a tall, thin robot. Sure all these things are important for stability and wotnot. But really, it's the processing of sensory information that makes it a robot and not a pine car.

Nondeterminism means never having to say you are wrong.