‘Backdoor Bandit’ Nabs Most Mice in 6.270 Autonomous Robot Design Competition

They’re not furry, they’re not friendly, but perhaps they’re housebroken.

In this year’s 6.270 Autonomous Robot Competition, robots — or rather, “space cats” — raced each other to catch the most “mice” and win the grand prize: Dell netbooks for their human masters and all the “space catnip” they could want.

Nathan C. Villagaray-Carski ’13, William D. Drevo ’13, and Robert A. Webber ’13, calling themselves team “East Coast Dolphins,” won first place with their robot “Backdoor Bandit.”

According to the course website, each team is given the same kit containing various sensors, electronic components, batteries, motors, and LEGOs and has three weeks to transform these parts into a working robot.

Keeping in part with this year’s theme, the constructed robots, or “Space Cats,” faced off in one-to-one duels to determine who could catch the most “mice” in the 8’x8’arena.

Backyard Bandit’s slightly sneaky shenanigans won it the prize, its human masters said.

“I think our versatility allowed us to overcome new problems that none of the teams had really prepared for,” said Webber. “For instance we had never really fought another team for a mouse before but since our robot only needed to get near a mouse to grab it, rather than the prevailing method of making it follow a magnet onto a platform, we were able to avoid problems of fighting other teams for mice.”

“Backdoor Bandit” looked the part too. “GET SOME” was emblazoned on it exterior, along a (likely ironic) smiley face. Its appearance “effectively forc[ed] all other robots to bow before [its] majesty,” said Villagaray-Carski.

At first, thhe robot also sported an automated candy dispenser, but that was removed, Webber said. “It was against the rules to lure mice with candy,” he joked.

Winning first in the competition “was exhilarating and victory tasted like the sweet, sweet nectar of the gods,” Villagaray-Carski said.

“I felt like what we did that night would echo in eternity,” Weber said.