In 2008, the workgroup electronics (WELEK) at the UGent Faculty of Engineering and Architecture organised a robot competition for students of the faculty. While it all started small with a autonomous light eating contest and only 12 participating robots, it grew to a successful yearly event with nearly 150 participating students and is now known as the biggest Belgian robot contest for higher education. Despite its connection with higher education, since 2013, the robot competition welcomes also high school students who form one third of the participants.
Upcoming edition: 27th of April at 19h00 at the AULA of the UGent, this year's theme is Robot Race of Champions
The project goal
The goal of the yearly UGent-Dwengo robot competition is three-fold:
- Lower the threshold for students to get involved into electronics and robotics by providing guidance and infrastructure;
- Teach several concepts in electronics and robotics in a more practical way and as such;
- Motivate students towards electronics and robotics.
We usually start with a kick-off session in January. In this session we focus on an overview of the goal, including the rules and a basic explanation of what a robot is and how students can start building. Then the students have the opportunity to register, purchase and solder the necessary components. Next, two hands-on soldering sessions are organised twice. They are used for students to solder the microcontroller platform. After that, a theoretical session about sensors and how to program robots is offered. We explain what sensor types can be used, how the output of these sensors can be interpreted and what functionality is available in the programming framework.
We have observed that students from secondary education and students without background in electronics and little programming experience are able to understand the concepts in this theoretical session and apply them to their robot. This theoretical knowledge can then be applied to the their robots in the following four (again two times two) guided sessions. Typically, students build their robot, solder and connect the sensors, and perform some tests. Right before the competition itself an extra session is offered, during which students test their robot and solve the last few problems. During all sessions, WELEK volunteers are available to help the students and answer their questions. By attending the sessions, students see the work of the other teams. This gives them the advantage to compare robots and learn from the other teams.
While students guidance is important, the subject of the robot competition cannot be neglected. There are four simple rules for creating a successful competition robot:
- Multiple robots do something at the same time (a fight or race is nicer to watch than one robot performing the same task);
- The rules are kept simple and easy to interpret;
- There are well considered restrictions on size and weight;
- We keep room for creativity and competition.
Robots trick students into education
The robot competition is held in late April. If you want to take part, keep an eye on the robot competition Facebook page!
Partners & sponsors
The robot competition is a co-organisation by the UGent workgroup electronics, the UGent science communication department and Dwengo vzw. Without the loyal yearly financial sponsoring of Dekimo the robot competition would not exist.