Robot Festival – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Robot Festival

Students in Professor John Vaughn’s Computer Architecture (CPSC226) course participated in the annual Robot Festival as part of their final project on Thursday, May 4.

Vaughn explained to the audience in the Geneva Room of the library that the students learned assembly language programming as part of the requirements for the course, and built computer boards on robot bases, complete with motors, sensors and wheels. He emphasized that the robots were sensing and reacting to the obstacles and terrain that they encountered – the students were not operating them by remote control with joysticks.

Each of the six robots had three passes on the maze, which included a box obstacle to go around, a wall to travel along, one straight and one turning road to follow, and a gate to be raised when encountered.

After each robot had its first pass through the maze, students spoke about four other projects while others made adjustments for the second and third passes.

Liane Gray ’07 of Woodstock, Conn., described a Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI), best known through the Moog and other synthesizers that produce electrical signals that are similar to the signals that traditional musical instruments put out.

Eduardo Ponce de Leon ’06 of Puebla, Mexico, who was enrolled in Independent Study (CPSC 450), demonstrated Aibo, a commercially available robotic dog, which he had “taught” to find – by turning its head and scanning – and then kick a ball.

Matt McIvor ’09 of Redlands, Calif.; and David Young ’08 of Eatontown, N.J.; discussed the Fire Fighting Robot and the conference they attended at Trinity College in Connecticut. The competition involved robots going through four rooms, sensing walls to the left and right, to find a lighted candle, which it then “blew out” with a blast from the carbon dioxide cartridge.

Michael Grenier ’07 of Andover, Mass.; Lori Pietraszek ’08 of Syracuse; and Richard Klein ’08 of Westport, Conn., concluded the presentations with their “Quadmobile,” a child-sized battery-operated car modified to find – or chase and follow – objects in the Hobart Quad with repeated scanning.

The second and third passes through the maze had essentially the same results as the first: Young’s robot (shown with him at top) was the only one to complete the course all three times.

Computer Architecture is one of several applied and theoretical courses offered in the Mathematics and Computer Science Department. The field is rapidly growing and constantly changing, and has applications across numerous disciplines.

Vaughn, who joined the faculty in 1985, holds a bachelor of science in mathematics from the University of Houston, a master of arts in mathematics from St. Louis University, and his doctorate in mathematical logic from the University of Illinois at Chicago.