This week sees the beginning of the 2014 DIT RoboSumo competition. Over the next three and a bit months, you (DIT students from programmes DT009/2, DT021/1 and DT081/1) will work in teams of three to build an autonomous robot that will compete for a substantial cash prize in a robot sumo tournament in the Gleeson Hall in early May. The rules of each bout are the Robot Challenge sumo rules (Mini Sumo class), which are widely used in robot sumo competitions around the world. Between now and the final tournament, all teams’ robots will also participate in an intermediate competititive task.
Along the way, there will be a lot of hard work, a lot of learning, plenty of laughs, and probably a few tears. The RoboSumo module involves a great deal of technical learning (microcontroller programming, power electronics, control algorithms, mechanical design, etc) which will be extremely useful to you in the years to come. However, the most important learning of all is finding out how to work as an effective member of an engineering team. That means not only contributing directly to the technical progress of the team, but also helping each other to contribute effectively. Good teams establish a rational decision making process, coordinate individual efforts efficiently, share knowledge and resolve conflicts in a mature way. Almost all engineering roles in industry involve working in a team – and working in a real-world team presents real-world challenges – so knowing how to do it well is just as important for engineers as technical expertise.
Those of us teaching on this module regard ourselves as very lucky to be involved. It’s a hugely rewarding process for us to be part of, and we know from past experience that those of you who embrace it will feel the same. Long before you build your final robot, many of you will share a unique experience with your team mates: the thrill of creating something that moves autonomously. It’s difficult to understand how rewarding that is until you’ve lived it!