Entering room RM304 above the MakerSpace at the Tandon School of Engineering on Oct. 17 was comparable to walking onto the set of a science-fiction movie: an intense match of remote-controlled robots ramming into each other, surrounded by students rooting for their team.
With wires, batteries and duct tapes littered on every available table space for last-minute repairs and touch-ups to the robotic contenders, this event could only be one thing — the SumoBots competition; an event held every year by the Tandon club PolyBOTS.
PolyBOTS is one of Tandon’s oldest and largest clubs and offers students the guidance and resources needed to build robots and work on robotic-related projects. Along with offering students equipment and guidance, PolyBOTS hosts multiple workshops and competitions throughout the year, one of them being the SumoBots competition.
Like in sumo wrestling, two robots face each other in a circular ring and try to push the other outside of the ring though each team’s remote control. This goes on in one-on-one tournaments until there is a final victor.
The winning team was awarded the opportunity to build a trophy for next year’s competition — along with earning bragging rights and a soda.
“We always do [SumoBOTS] at the beginning of the semester because it’s supposed to be easy,” PolyBOTS President and Tandon graduate student Jesse Lew said. “It’s not meant to be such a strong competition, it’s really meant to teach them how to build a robot that can move around — these are really people’s first robots, so they’re basically getting their feet wet.”
Participating teams are given an introduction to robot building and required materials to build their competing robots with certain restrictions in mind.
“[Students] had a bunch of design constraints like height, width and length, and were given motors and wheels and basic materials that they can assemble their robot from,” PolyBOTS Vice President and Tandon junior Nicole Nadim said.
Teams are also prohibited from weaponizing their robots in any way.
“No fire, no saws, nothing to actually damage the other robot,” Nadim said.
Club members at the match joked around, ate pizza and chatted among themselves as the tournament went on. This casual, easygoing atmosphere has been one of the defining characteristics of the club, since its incorporation many years ago.
“It’s a place for people to hang out when they’re free and share ideas,” Tandon graduate student Abhimanyu Ghosh said.
Email Alesha Bradford at [email protected].