Tech Places 10th in Robotics Contest, April 28, 1999

SOCORRO, N.M., April 28, 1999 -- Four teams of New Mexico Tech electrical engineering students recently competed in an international robotics contest, proving once again that Tech-designed robots can "put out fires" alongside the best of them.

One of the teams New Mexico Tech fielded placed tenth overall in the senior division of the Sixth Annual Fire-Fighting Home Robot Contest, held recently at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn. The international competition pitted 75 robots designed by individuals and teams from throughout the United States, Canada, Israel, Switzerland, and Thailand against each other in a time-dependent challenge.

[New Mexico Tech's electrical engineering department will host a similar contest this weekend on the Tech campus: Just who can lay claim to having the "best fire-fighting robot" on campus will be determined at the university's fifth annual fire-fighting robot competition on Saturday, May 1, at 1 p.m. in Workman Center, room 101. The contest is free and open to the public.]

A team from Tufts University took first-place honors in this year's competition, while two teams from New Mexico Tech placed tenth and 23rd. The two other Tech teams did not qualify during the robotics contest.

Contestants were challenged to build a computerized, autonomous (not remotely controlled) robotic device which could move through the hallways and rooms of a scaled-down, one-story house, detect a lit candle, and then extinguish the flame. The robot which accomplished the task in the least amount of time was declared the winner.

New Mexico Tech's tenth-place entry, affectionately dubbed "Sparky," was a team effort designed and developed by Tech students Monica Chavez, Ben Esparza, Will Levin, and Khan Ngo. All are juniors majoring in electrical engineering at the state-supported research university.

The other New Mexico Tech fire-fighting robots entered in this year's international competition included:

  • "Jerry-Rig" (which placed 23rd), team members were Ben Hoover, Ryan Schmidt, Ben Silva, and David Tu;
  • "Pi-Rho," team members were Meisha Collins and George McCone; and
  • "Trixie," team members were David Bonal, Mike Davis, Jacob Dunken, and Robert Niemand.

Faculty advisors to all four Tech teams were Stephen Bruder and Kevin Wedeward, both assistant professors of electrical engineering at New Mexico Tech.