Pirate droids battle in student robotics competition March 14

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Robotic pirate "ships" built by UC Santa Cruz engineering students will face off in battle, firing ping-pong balls and ramming each other, in a free public demonstration on Wednesday, March 14, at 7 p.m. in the Baskin Engineering Auditorium (Room 101) on the UCSC campus. The event is free and open to the public.

The competition is the final project for students in the Introduction to Mechatronics class taught by Gabriel Elkaim, associate professor of computer engineering in the Baskin School of Engineering. Every year, Elkaim comes up with a different challenge for his students. The project gives students an opportunity to apply all the knowledge and skills they have learned in the class to solve an open-ended problem, he said.

The students work in teams to build a "droid" or robot that can operate autonomously, with no help from the students once the game starts. This year's competition is called "Slugs of the Caribbean: On Stranger Slimes."

"The task requires the droids to navigate a field to get to the enemy's island and return to their own, while shooting at the enemy with ping-pong balls," Elkaim said. "We will run the competition in a round-robin format to see which design reigns supreme. The public is invited to come see what these students have accomplished in 10 weeks and cheer on the competition. You may have to duck a few ping-pong balls."