International Flair Marks 21st Annual Robotics Competition

RoboWaiter to be held on Saturday; Fire Fighting Contest on Sunday

More than 100 teams representing six countries – and featuring the debut of a team from Kuwait – will participate in this weekend’s Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest, which has two components: RoboWaiter, which is an assistive robotics competition, and the traditional extinguish-the-flame contest.

Trinity will be well represented, with 11 teams participating. The annual Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest is considered one of the premier robotics events in the world. Over the years, modifications have been made to make the fire fighting contest more difficult and exciting, and RoboWaiter was added six years ago as its own discrete event as assistive robotics has become increasingly instrumental to the lives of people with disabilities.

The RoboWaiter competition will take place Saturday, April 5, beginning at 1:15 p.m. with opening remarks from Thomas Mitzel, dean of faculty. It will take place in the Oosting Gym in the Ferris Athletic Center. The Fire Fighting contest will be Sunday, April 6, and will be preceded by remarks by Trinity President James F. Jones, Jr. and international team leaders at an 11 a.m. opening ceremony. The competition will get started at 11:30 a.m. and wrap up with an awards ceremony at about 4 p.m.

Both days’ competitions are open to the public.

For more information, including the complete schedule of events, times and locations, rules, and frequently asked questions, please visit:

Twenty-two teams in all – from Indonesia, Israel, the United States and Trinity – will participate in the RoboWaiter competition.

RoboWaiter requires an autonomous robot to snatch a dish from a miniature refrigerator and carry it to a small figure seated at a table in a room. The robots, which are designed as colorfully and creatively as the imagination will allow, are typically no larger than a breadbox.

Some substantive changes have been made to the RoboWaiter competition this year: A junior division has been added; the formerly optional cleanup mode in the advanced division is now required; and a new food object has been added in the advanced division.

It’s hoped that assistive robots, such as the type that will be on display, will one day lead to major developments that can help people with disabilities.

The Fire Fighting Home Robot Contest advances robot technology and knowledge by using robotics as an educational tool. The winning robot must respond to a fire alarm, navigate the maze, locate the flame, and extinguish it in the shortest possible time.

To accomplish the overall task, the robot must start on a signal (a simulated fire alarm), explore a typical family home (the arena), locate a fire (a burning candle), extinguish it, and optionally return to its starting point. The robot must operate autonomously during all parts of the challenge, without human intervention, using its own sensors, control logic, and actuators.

There are several divisions, among them junior, high school, senior, and walking. In all divisions, the rooms will be furnished with such scale-model items as tables, chairs, hat racks and sofas. The more items in the room, the higher the score that a robot can achieve.

Teams will be on hand from Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. In addition to the previously mentioned countries, teams from Canada and Kuwait will participate.

The principle sponsor of the two-day event is Versa Products Company, Inc. of New Jersey, whose CEO is Jan Larsson, a 1977 Trinity alumna. The Versa Valve Challenge offers a $500 prize in each contest division for the best robot that uses a Versa valve to extinguish the candle. Versa Products has manufactured pneumatic, hydraulic, manual and solenoid valves since 1949.

The other major sponsor is Trinity College. Patrons include the Connection section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and SolidWorks. Event supporters are Custom Circuit Boards; Odyssey Magazine; Circuit Cellar; Parallax Inc.;; and Scientific American.