University of Northern Iowa MiniSumo Invitational

The University of Northern Iowa Physics Department will host the eighth annual MiniSumo Robotics Competition on Friday, April 26, 2013. Ship-in Robots are robots shipped to the University of Northern Iowa Physics Department, usually by club robotics members, and operated by UNI students who carefully follow the builders’ written instructions.  UNI has a seven year history of receiving, handling, and safely returning shipped robots which have arrived from Hawaii, Canada, Washington, Texas, Illinois, Indiana, and elsewhere.

Meshing the art of sumo wrestling with the creation of robots, mini-sumo robots battle in a competition, similar to that of sumo wrestling. The program is a cost-effective and engaging approach to educational and club robotics.  UNI offers two Physics Department courses which teach mechanical, electronic, and computer programming skills in the context of mini-sumo robotics.  These are some of the same skills needed in advanced manufacturing and high-technology industries within Iowa and the U.S. The annual spring competition highlights the accomplishments of UNI students and allows them to compete against robots created by experts from across the US.  UNI robotics students have steadily improved the sophistication of their mini-sumo robots.  For the first time, in 2011, a UNI student robot defeated ‘all comers’.  This was Gizmo, built by UNI Chemistry graduate student Kevin O’Connor.  The photo shows student Steven Rupp, with his robot Julie, a stealth robot completely surrounded by mirrors.  Julie is preparing to face a MarkIII style robot.  Julie and the MarkIII robot are featured in the second photo, below.

An important participant in competitions has been the very dynamic robot ExSpurt, which has been shipped to Cedar Falls each year since 2008 by Rick Brooks, of Fort Wayne Indiana.  ExSpurt, and other shipped robots provide UNI students with a stiff challenge. The live-on-the-internet competition each spring, and the participation of Ship-In robots makes UNI a national player in the important field of robotics education.

Credit: University of Northern Iowa
Credit: University of Northern Iowa

Competition is taking place since 2006 when it was created at the encouragement of Mr. Randy Dumse, a UNI alumnus, who is the founder of the UNI Robotics program, and President and Founder of New Micros, Inc, Dallas, Texas. This is an annual event.

Next event location: Hemisphere Lounge, Maucker Union, University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50614-0150 and also will be broadcast live on the internet.

Next event date: Friday April  26, 2013, 9:00 am to 11:30 am

This invitational competition last year saw the largest field ever, with 28 mini-sumo robots built by UNI students and four Ship-In robots from around the U.S. Number of teams that will participate in the next event will be 22 student builders presenting 24 robots.  The number of visiting robots is yet to be determined.

The categories of competition are:  MiniSumo.  (0.50 kg; 10cm)

Fee to participate:  For Ship-In competitors, a $20 payment to cover the costs of returning the robot, insured by UPS. No fee is required to attend.

Credit: University of Northern Iowa
Credit: University of Northern Iowa

Awards:  Typically three plaques presented.  1.  Overall winner.  2.  Top student competitor.  3. A third award is given in some cases.  For example, if the top two robots were built by students then a third plaque award will recognize the achievement of the top Ship-In robot.