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Botball: Autonomous Students Engineering Autonomous Robots

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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

7.263.1 - 7.263.10

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Paper Authors

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Cathryne Stein

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Botball: Autonomous students engineering autonomous robots

Cathryne Stein KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (405) 579-4609 Abstract Sparking and maintaining an early fascination with engineering and computer programming is of great interest to educators who wish to bring high quality students into these fields, and it is of vital concern to all of us who want to see our country thrive in this world economy. This paper will present an effective, intensive, and enjoyable way of getting middle and high school age students actively engaged in engineering, science, math, and computer programming. The paper describes Botball, an engineering outreach program in which students design, build, and program small autonomous mobile robots. Examples of how Botball may help to draw a diverse population into engineering and computer programming will be discussed. Introduction Recently, over 180 teams of students came together in regional tournaments across the country to match their two autonomous, but cooperative, robots against other teams’ robotic duos in a game of programming, design, strategy, and engineering skill. Most of these regional tournaments took place on college campuses. But the participants were middle and high school students who had designed, programmed and built these robots as part of an engineering outreach program called Botball. These middle and high school students came from a startling diversity of socio -economic backgrounds; they came from inner city and rural schools, private schools, science and technology magnet schools, alternative or continuation schools, as well as your average everyday suburban public school. Some even came from home school situations, community computer clubhouses, or other types of organizations. The most noticeable thing they had in common was how enthusiastic, motivated and focused they seemed to be. These students now have various degrees of experience with planning, defining problems and solutions, the design process, scheduling, mechanical engineering, programming, demonstrating, reporting results, and creating websites. In addition, some of the best teams’ programming solutions to the robotics challenge exhibited target tracking, multi- agent cooperation, and adversarial planning (all this in an unpredictable dynamic environment). These are the experienced, motivated students that could be in your classes as early as next year. Since Botball is entering its fifth year, some may already be there.

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Stein, C. (2002, June), Botball: Autonomous Students Engineering Autonomous Robots Paper presented at 2002 Annual Conference, Montreal, Canada.

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