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Capital University News, California State University, Sacramento

February 18, 2004

Robots test mettle in CSUS contest Sunday

As two of the world's most sophisticated robots crawl along the Martian surface looking for signs of life, a few of their smaller, less complex cousins will be fighting for their very existence in a battle of the robots in the University Union Ballroom at California State University, Sacramento, from noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 22.

"This is going to be a destructive competition," CSUS mechanical engineering senior Nic Haviland explains. "Stuff gets broken-that's the best part, that's what everyone comes to watch."

The competition, featuring one-pound "ant weight" robots designed to disable their opponents, is the highlight of an afternoon-long engineering exposition celebrating National Engineering week.

Haviland, a member of the CSUS Competitive Robotics club, said the competition puts classroom lessons in electrical and mechanical engineering to work in a fun way that promotes teamwork.

"You need both electrical and mechanical engineers to build a robot," he says. "Neither one of us can build a robot on our own so we use a lot of multidisciplinary design teams." While the robots that will be Sunday will be small enough to fight their battles on a tabletop, the club also built Seismic, a 300-pound robot with a air-powered ram built to hammer its opponents into submission. The club's first venture, Seismic was designed to battle against other heavyweight robots on a growing circuit of robotic battlegrounds.

If Seismic is impressive, Haviland says the ant-weight robots are not as costly to build-or repair after a battle-and make it much easier for club members to take their engineering lessons out to local schools.

"This gives us the ability to go more places and show more things" he says.

The CSUS students hope to use robots to interest school children in engineering. Haviland says many school children already know about robotics-lessons learned by playing and programming mechanical toys and following the exploits of NASA's Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity.

And, while the distance from the CSUS campus to Mars is about 65 million miles, Haviland says the NASA rovers and the student robots have more in common than one would expect.

"The principles NASA uses on the rovers, we possess," he says. "We might not have their technology, but at least we understand the concepts and the components."

Haviland said the club is still accepting entries for the competition and those interested in entering their robots can find more information at

Tickets to the CSUS Ant-Weight Challenge and Engineering Expo are $5 general, $3 students and free to children under 10 and may be purchased at the University Ticket Office, through or at the door.

For tickets call (916) 278-4323; for information about the expo and competition, call (916) 296-6080. Media assistance is available from CSUS public affairs at (916) 278-6156.


California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •
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California State University, Sacramento • Public Affairs
6000 J Street • Sacramento, CA 95819-6026 • (916) 278-6156 •