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March 15, 2001 Fighting it out for cash prizes in the Robowars sweepstakes




Student Hannah Okafor

Hannah Okafor does some last-minute tuning on her "solar roller."

Robotic sumo wrestling


Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj


by Joseph Berger

Robots invaded the lobby of the McConnell Building last Thursday.

With help from Concordia’s Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the Robowars student committee invited robotics students from across Quebec to take part.

At one time an annual event, Robowars has not been held at Concordia since 1998. Last June, though, engineering students David-John Palazzo, vice-chair of IEEE Concordia, and Mario Ciaramicoli, president of the Engineering and Computer Science Association, participated in a robotics competition in Calgary.

“They had stopped holding the event because of a lack of people to organize it,” said organizer Cedric Viou, “but last year, David went to Calgary and decided to bring Robowars back here so people can enjoy it.”

Viou, a Concordia exchange student from France, explained the two types of competition. “For the Solar Roller, people have to build a small robot that is powered only by solar energy,” he said. “The robot must fit inside a 10-by-10-centimetre box. The winner is the first robot that gets to the other end of the track.”

The key lies in the design. “They have to try to make a very light robot, using big enough solar panels and as few electronics components as possible, to make the robot a little smarter,” Viou explained.

Robot sumo wrestling is the invention of a Japanese scientist, Dr. Mato Hattori. The contest involves two robots trying to forcefully remove each other from a wooden plank measuring 1.8 metres in diameter. The robots, which came in both the radio-controlled and “auto-nomous” varieties, were not allowed to fatally wound each other.

“The sumo robots are in a ring, and they have to push their opponent out of that ring just by contact,” Viou explained. “No chemical weapons or that kind of stuff, just robots,” he added with a chuckle.

The teams were given points for a variety of criteria: aesthetics, strategy, ability and design, with winner walking away with a cool $1,000 for the Sumo Wrestling and $500 for the Solar Roller.

Charles Alex took home the big prize in the Sumo category, while Enia Tee, a Concordia Arts student, was the Solar Roller champion. Sumo Wrestling runners-up Jason Levine, Jacob Shenker and Richard Dias, all from Westmount’s St. George’s high school, were confident.

“We are going to win because we have massive amounts of torque which are delivered to our robots by two old Mercedes Benz power window motors,” said Levine, prior to the competition. “This is the only robot here powered by authentic German automobile parts,” he added.

Alas, the German engineering was only good enough for a second-place finish.