April 21, 2008

Mechanical gladiators to turn Sacramento State into battle zone

Photo: Cell Phone receiving text messege
Robots will do battle at Sacramento State Sunday, April 27 at the annual “Smackdown and Sactown” sponsored by the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

Some robots build cars and some run factories. Then there are those that fight to the death.

A group of those robots will engage in combat at the annual Smackdown in Sactown battle of the bots, noon-5 p.m., Sunday, April 27 in the University Union.

The Smackdown, sponsored by students from the College of Engineering and Computer Science, is part of the Engineering Expo, an annual event that showcases student projects.

Last year’s Smackdown drew about 100 entries. Robots battle until they are disabled, flipped over or pushed into a hole. To even the playing field, robots are limited in weight to one pound or less.

“That forces people to be more creative in their design,” says Sue Holl, faculty advisor for competitive robotics. “Since all the robots are light, they can’t just crush their opponents. The operator has to be clever and use levers and claws to grab, flip and push.”

Although the expo is run by the students, anyone can enter the Smackdown, according to Bryan Solari, a Sacramento State mechanical engineering student, “To build a robot you need a power supply and a way to control it,” he says. “But, the challenge is to build the better robot. If you only put a little time into engineering it, it might not last long in competition. Put more work in, and it probably stands a better chance.”

The winner receives $300, but for many engineering students, the real prize is the opportunity to display their skills.

“Engineers like to compete with each other to solve problems in innovative ways,” says Holl. “Engineering is a study in compromise. You might want to do things one way, but if that design doesn’t work you have to be innovative and creative.”

The expo will also feature projects built by students in the college’s competitive clubs. Displays will include a concrete canoe, a mini Baja, formula race car, remote controlled helicopters and a hover craft.

The Engineering Expo is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.sacbots.org. For media assistance, contact Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.