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Robot Wars at Concordia

by Archives January 29, 2008

With motors whining and gears grinding, this year’s competition saw many robots crash, fall or just simply breakdown. Though it did not have the flames and destruction which are the trademark of reality show RobotWars, the crowd was just as excited as the wood, plastic and rubber creations negotiated a tough obstable course in this year’s Quebec Engineering Competition’s Senior Design challenge.
Concordia’s senior design team is the province’s best this year as it was the only team to reach the end of the course in a challenge geared to senior engineering students.
For the teams involved, meeting the requirements was the mission statement. By the looks of the empty bottles of energy drinks as well as the tools and equipment strewn about inside the classroom in the basement of the Faubourg, it was a trying effort down to the wire.
“The senior design happens overnight. The team spirit, the challenge, the adrenaline, made it worthwhile,” said Guillaume Villeneuve, a contestant from Chicoutimi University (UQAC).
Each school team was given 12 hours to build a robot that could cross a tabletop obstacle course. The terrain had an incline which threatened to roll over robots, cardboard tubes simulating felled trees and a slope which tests the pilot’s ability to keep his/her robot on course to its goal.
The course ends with a styrofoam surface on which the robot must extract water from a bucket sitting underneath the course. The goal was to bring as much water as possible from a bucket located under the one-inch styrofoam “ground” by either piercing it or reaching through one of the holes on either side.
One robot, on a tricycle chassis and decorated with a tiny skull at the top of the handlebars, aptly nicknamed the “Ghostrider,” lost power while extracting water from the bucket. A team member decided to help his creation along by drawing water through the tube using his mouth.
“Suck! Suck! Suck!” encouraged the boisterous crowd.
Many robots weren’t able to reach the styrofoam and the water bucket under their own power, several falling off the course when encountering the “mountain.” Others stopped responding after the gears connecting the motors to the wheels grinded and would not catch.
Concordia’s team was the only one to complete the course, reaching the water bucket. Unfortunately their robot was not able to come back to the starting-line with the water it had gathered.
After the competition, team leader Garrett Morgan said they had met all their objectives. However, the Concordia team members did not have the same advantages as visiting teams. Unlike other schools that came from across the province, the participants from Concordia were still expected to attend their classes.
“Our schedule was the most exhausting because we were up all of Thursday, then we got to class on Friday,” said Morgan.
For Étienne Landry from UQAC, it did not sound so easy. Even though the material was there on paper (a list was given to every team), not every piece of material was available to each team.
“There were four motors and 15 teams. We had to settle for what we could find,” said Landry.
“Instead of being a competition of whether we would pass the first step, it could have been a competition of who succeeds best,” he added.
Sean Durand, an organizer of the event, thought the shortage of materials was part of the challenge. He explained that it forced participants to quickly identify what they would need and rush to get their materials as items were available on a first-come-first-served basis.
As a result of their win, Concordia’s Senior Design team will head to Waterloo, Ontario in march for the national finals of the engineering competition. They will be joined by the the school’s Consulting Engineering team who finished second in their category and won the Technical Excellence award.

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