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Fight Fires with Robots!

Every April hundreds of robots will converge on Connecticut from as far away as Israel and China. It’s the 15th annual Robot Firefighting Contest at Trinity College, Hartford. From elementary school children to retired engineers they come to compete with their autonomous, computer controlled ‘bots. Robots navigate through a maze resembling the floor plan of a house to find a burning candle and put it out in the shortest time.

Firefighting is an excellent use of robots: it saves lives and it keeps human firefighters out of danger.

Simulated houses all have the same layout and range from very easy to ones with stairs and carpet and a simulated baby. Bots get extra points for saving the ‘baby’.

This year’s national contest takes place April 9 & 10, 2011 and registration opens February 15. There are also local and regional competitions: good for trying out your entry ahead of time. Bill Bechtel took his middle school team to a regional at Penn State Abington, near Philadelphia, a few years back and they did quite well, beating some college entries. (See video). For a listing of local robot competitions.

Many different kinds of robots compete. The only restrictions are that they must fit in a box 31 cm x31 cm x 27 cm high. Any materials are permitted and bots may be made from kits or custom built. If you want to start a team, we can help with advice and hardware.


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Robert Contaldi