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Battlebots And The Electrical Engineering Education

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2002 Annual Conference


Montreal, Canada

Publication Date

June 16, 2002

Start Date

June 16, 2002

End Date

June 19, 2002



Conference Session

Mobile Robotics in Education

Page Count


Page Numbers

7.252.1 - 7.252.9



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Paper Authors

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Brian Peterson

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Barry Mullins

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Session 2620

BattleBots and the Electrical Engineering Education

Barry E. Mullins, Brian S. Peterson

Department of Electrical Engineering / Air Force Institute of Technology United States Air Force Academy, CO / Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH


The use of robotics as a learning tool within computer/electrical engineering as well as computer science curriculums is ever increasing for a variety of reasons including stimulating interest in engineering. This paper describes the educational experiences gained through the design, construction, and competition of two robots called BattleBots. A television show sponsored by BattleBots Inc. showcases these BattleBots in a radio-controlled robotic combat competition. The show is televised by Comedy Central within the United States. Competitors design, build, and test a fortified robot in hopes of attending the biannual, single-elimination tournament, incapacitating the competition, and walking away with the top prize. During the spring of 2001, two electrical engineering students at the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) built two robots as their capstone senior design projects and subsequently competed in the May 2001 tournament. This paper describes the background of BattleBots, the process by which the students completed their robots, how the students were able to attend the competition, and how the students faired in battle. In addition, the tremendous national media coverage of the students, and the ramifications of the students attending the contest are discussed. The paper points out the enthusiasm of the students as they built their robots and prepared for the competition. It is shown that using BattleBots as a motivational venue exposes the general public and students to the advantages of pursuing an engineering degree.


It is well documented that the use of robots stimulates the learning process in an educational environment. One of the ancillary benefits of using robots in the classroom or lab is that it forces the students to consider cross-disciplinary issues. Systems engineering takes on a whole new meaning—students must address the interfaces between digital, analog, and mechanical systems. It is no coincidence these issues are addressed by ABET. ABET now requires curricula to include cross-disciplinary, project-oriented learning. The use of robots in our curriculum satisfies these requirements. In addition, these issues satisfy the critical educational outcomes of USAFA. Moreover, building a BattleBot satisfies the goal of our senior capstone-design course (EE 464). The goal of EE 464 “is for all electrical engineering cadets to gain practical experience in the ‘real world’ of engineering problem solving by the successful design and implementation of a challenging electrical engineering project” 1.

Proceedings of the 2002 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference & Exposition Copyright ©2002, American Society for Engineering Education

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Peterson, B., & Mullins, B. (2002, June), Battlebots And The Electrical Engineering Education Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada. 10.18260/1-2--11370

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