SOUTHFIELD—Teams from Novi and Rochester, Mich. and Riverview, Fla. in the United States, and Hong Kong, Macau, Saudi Arabia and Taiwan overseas, earned first-place awards at Lawrence Technological University’s 2023 Robofest World Championship Game and Exhibition Finals, held over the weekend on LTU’s Southfield campus.
Robofest is a series of robotics competitions for students as young as fourth grade through college age. Robofest differs from other robotics competitions in that all robots competing are completely autonomous, controlled only by software developed by team members. Also, barriers to entry are low—the registration fee is only $75, and any robot kit and programming language can be used. A basic robot kit costs approximately $400.
The most popular Robofest competition is the Game event, in which robots are designed and programmed to accomplish a specific task that changes each year of competition, with some mission requirements revealed to competitors just prior to the event.
The 2023 Game competition was ripped from the headlines: the Supply Chain Challenge. According to the game introduction: The supply chain is broken, the ports are jammed up, and the stores are empty! In this game, robots are programmed to clear obstacles, bring order to a port, and restock a store. Representing these challenges, robots must be programmed to move colored cans to a “port” area and stack them, move tennis balls to a “store” area, and remove obstacles—represented by flashlight batteries—from a competition table.
Winning the senior (grades 9-12) Game competition was team Creativity Explode from Cheng Yi Senior High School in Kaohsiung, Taiwan. Finishing second was Royal Robots from Annapolis West Education Centre in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, Canada. A team called RoboWarriors from Troy Youth Robotics, a nonprofit in Troy, finished in third place.
Winning the junior (grades 5-8) Game competition was team Shoplifters from the Smart Labs STEM education program in Rochester. Second place went to The Fantastic 4 from the LEGO Legion in Novi, Mich.
Other Robofest divisions include Exhibition, in which teams are free to develop any task and then build a robot to accomplish it; RoboArts, in which robots are created and programmed to perform in areas such as music and visual arts; RoboMed, in which teams create robots that perform tasks in healthcare and the life sciences; the Unknown Mission Challenge, in which mission tasks are totally unknown to teams until the day of competition; RoboParade, a parade of autonomous robot “floats;” and BottleSumo, in which robots re programmed to be the first to push a bottle or the other robot off a competition table.
Winning the senior Exhibition category was Inno Centenarian from Po Leung Kuk Centenary Li Shiu Chung Memorial College in Hong Kong. Winning the junior Exhibition category was team Vibots from Rodgers Middle School in Riverview, Fla.
Winning the senior RoboArts category was the AI Orchestra Robot from Chiu Chow Association Secondary School in Hong Kong. Junior RoboArts was won by Team Encanto of the Robot Institute of Hong Kong.
There are three age divisions in the RoboMed category, developed in 2020 to encourage teams to pursue biomedical engineering undergraduate and graduate degrees at LTU. The winning college RoboMed team was Team Universe from Saudi Arabia. The winning senior RoboMed team was Mars Boy from Taiwan. Team PCMS from Macau won the Junior RoboMed division.
The Unknown Mission Challenge winner at the senior level was a team called Taiwan and America So Rich from Taiwan. The junior winner was Team Fantastic 4 from Novi. UMC is a competition that shows advanced talent in computer science, since teams must both build and program their robots to accomplish a task they don’t learn until the morning of competition.
New this year, first-place team members from several senior categories were offered $17,000-a-year scholarships to attend LTU. All Robofest participants automatically get a $3,000-a-year scholarship offer.
“Robofest teaches so many students every year important lessons about the jobs of our increasingly robot-driven and automated future, making STEAM education fun,” said Christopher Cartwright, Robofest director and associate professor of mathematics at LTU.
“We are thrilled that we were able to host the Robofest World Championship in person again after three years online,” added Shannan Palonis, Robofest coordinator.
Cartwright and Palonis served as masters of ceremonies for the event. Sibrina Collins, executive director of STEM education in the LTU College of Arts and Sciences, offered opening remarks.
Robofest was invented at LTU in 1999 by computer science professor C.J. Chung. Since inception, over 34,300 students have participated in the program. For more information about Robofest, visit www.robofest.net.
Lawrence Technological University, www.ltu.edu, is one of only 13 private, technological, comprehensive doctoral universities in the United States. Located in Southfield, Mich., LTU was founded in 1932, and offers more than 100 programs through its Colleges of Architecture and Design, Arts and Sciences, Business and Information Technology, Engineering, and Health Sciences. PayScale lists Lawrence Tech among the nation’s top 11 percent of universities for alumni salaries. Forbes and The Wall Street Journal rank LTU among the nation’s top 10 percent. U.S. News and World Report lists it in the top tier of best in the Midwest colleges. 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.