It's Miner 49er - Robo-Miner

Barren landscapes, grizzled miners, and valuable ore! The historic Gold Rush of the Yukon is being recreated in the future by a mob of robot miners. It's all part of a one-month crash course in which 50 groups of MIT students are learning how to build intelligent robots.

6.270 (pronounced six-two-seventy) culminates in a double elimination tournament on Feb. 2, 1995. Every year, spectators crowd into MIT's largest lecture hall to watch this popular event.

Last year's competition--Robo-Raiders--had a nautical flavor and was attended by more than 500 students and faculty. This year even more will attend Robo-Miners, the finale of this course organized and taught entirely by students. Other schools may have an annual homecoming game, but at MIT it's the annual robot competition that really draws the crowds.

Each robot will have 60 seconds to gather ore and pieces of a valuable alloy--unobtainium--which float in centrally-located air streams. These streams transform ore into unobtainium, but are located on a raised plateau which separates the robots. Adding to the confusion is the mysterious j-device floating above the table.

The goal of the course is to provide an alternative approach for learning advanced technological ideas. The course aims to draw upon the best aspects of the hacker ethic--the idea that people learn most effectively when they are having fun and building things that they care about.

"It's an opportunity to design and build a system from scratch --combining solder, chips and elbow grease and hopefully ending with an functioning robot," says Sanjay Vakil, a graduate student organizer.

Students in the course learn ideas from a variety of engineering disciplines as they design, construct, and program their robots. Unlike other robotic competitions, most of the students have no prior knowledge in robotics. "Students learn everything from mechanical engineering and electrical engineering to programming," says Pankaj Oberoi, another MIT graduate student and organizer. After taking the course, some students return to 6.270 to serve as teaching assistants, or organizers, thereby perpetuating this student-taught, student-run course.

6.270 is supported by the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Microsoft Corp., Motorola Inc., LEGO Systems Inc., Polaroid Corp., Rayovac and Hawker Energy Products.



Location: Rm. 26-100 (Building 26, Room 100), a lecture hall with 450-person seating capacity.

The first public round of the contest will begin at 11am on Thursday, February 2. THIS ROUND WILL BE OPEN TO THE PRESS AND VIDEO AND STILL FOOTAGE WILL BE ALLOWED.

We have found that invasive footage (that which blocks people's views) is detrimental to the enjoyment of the contest, and no cameras will be allowed on stage without prior permission.

Also, please note that we hope to keep the lighting in the room fairly low, and additional flash photography, camera lights, and autofocus cameras will not be allowed, as they interfere with the robots' sensors.

For additional information, contact Sanjay Vakil by phone at (617) 253-0993, (617) 253-7350 or (617) 628-8145, or by email:

Topics: Artificial intelligence, Contests and academic competitions

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