Hundreds of students from around the world heading to LTU for Robofest

SOUTHFIELD—More than 600 students from around the world, plus another 200 coaches and parents, will travel to Lawrence Technological University this weekend for three days of competition under the umbrella of Robofest, a youth robotics competition founded by LTU computer science professor C.J. Chung.

It’s the 20th anniversary of the event, first held at LTU in 1999. Competitions will begin Thursday, May 16, with the world championship game competition coming Saturday, May 18.

The 261 teams participating this year hail from Michigan, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Florida, and Hawaii, as well as from 14 countries—Canada, China, Egypt, Ecuador, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, South Korea, Macau, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa, Taiwan, and the United Arab Emirates.

Robofest is a competition to build and program autonomous robots. Unlike other robotics competitions, the robots are completely software-controlled, not controlled by remote operators using joysticks. Also, students are free to use any robotic kits, parts, sensors, and programming language. The competition also features a more modest cost than other robotics competitions, with an entry fee of just $50, and a basic robotic kit that costs $300.

Robofest also includes multiple events. The most popular is a game that changes every year. This year’s game, called “Binary Blocks,” requires that robots move and arrange black and white blocks to represent a 4-digit binary number. Last-minute challenges are also added to the game just before competition, and students are given 30 minutes to alter their programming language to achieve them.

Other Robofet events include an open competition, in which students can build a robot to achieve a task that they dream up, a robotic art exhibition, a computer vision-based robotics challenge, a simple robotic sumo wrestling competition, a parade of decorated autonomous robots, and a talent show. Teams compete in a junior division, grades 5-8, and a senior division, grades 9-12.

Since its founding in 1999, more than 28,000 students have participated in Robofest.

“Robofest is an integrated learning environment to provide talented workforce for the upcoming fourth industrial revolution era,” said Chung, who is also leading LTU’s autonomous vehicle project, ACTor, or Autonomous Campus Transport.

Southfield Mayor Ken Siver will offer remarks to the students at the opening of Robofest Saturday at 9 a.m.

Major sponsors of Robofest 2019 include DENSO, Hyundai MOBIS, FUTEK, the Michigan Council of Women in Technology Foundation, Robomatter, Robot Mesh, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the National Defense Industrial Association Michigan Chapter, Research Into Internet Systems (RIIS), Realtime Technologies Inc., IEEE Region 4 and Southeast Michigan Section, Toyota, and Soar Tech.

The event is free and open to the public. Ample free parking is available in nearby lots.

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Lawrence Technological University,, is a private university founded in 1932 that offers more than 100 programs through the doctoral level in its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Engineering, and Management. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 100 universities for the salaries of its graduates, and U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best Midwestern universities. Students benefit from small class sizes and a real-world, hands-on, “theory and practice” education with an emphasis on leadership. Activities on Lawrence Tech’s 107-acre campus include more than 60 student organizations and NAIA varsity sports.

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