Robots battle in Knox College competition

From The Register-Mail:

Jon Pierce-Ruhland rushed into the Francois Room of the Knox College Science-Math Center just before the Ninth Annual Sumo++ Robot Competition was to begin.

He took his diligently crafted robot, lovingly named Pi, out of a brown paper bag, installed a fresh set of AA batteries, set it aside and began nervously tapping his fingers and stepping side to side as spectators began pouring into the makeshift arena.

He called to his competition, “What’s your strategy?”

“No comment,” replied Max Galloway-Carson, whose robot was named Jack IV, before whispering to one of his supporters, “There will be blood. Robot blood.”

Pierce-Ruhland, a senior computer science and physics double major, was unaffected by his competitor’s confidence. This was his third and final Sumo++ Robot Competition, and having tasted second place twice before, he meant business.

Computer Science Department Chair John Dooley called the room to attention and had each contestant announce their robots’ names. First was Pierce-Ruhland with Pi, followed by Galloway-Carson and Jack IV.

There was also Wall-E, built by Sung Joo Lee and Stefan Feer; Josh Wood with Unknown, and first timer Sarah Leahy, a Costa Catholic Academy seventh grader and daughter of Knox math Professor Andrew Leahy, whose robot Jinx would have an unfortunately prophetic name.

The double-elimination tournament was friendly and intense, with Wall-E’s self-destructive nature, Jinx’s detrimentally light weight, and Jack IV’s painful inability to detect the coveted can, which the robots had to push out of a four-foot “Ring of Death” in order to win.

“Originally, we just had the robots pushing each other,” said Dooley. “It worked well for a few years, but we wanted to up the ante a little bit.”

In the end, it came down to Pierce-Ruhland’s Pi and Wood’s Unknown in the championship match, and in less than three minutes, Pierce-Ruhland tasted the victory he’d craved all these years…