UA Wins 2008 Intel Robotics Challenge
A team of UA senior computer and electrical engineering students traveled to Phoenix and walked away with potential Intel job offers.

Rebecca Ruiz-McGill
April 14, 2008

A single team of University of Arizona students and their faculty mentors defeated a triad of Arizona State University teams during the first-ever “Arizona Robotics Challenge.”

The all-senior team of students – Tony Leung, Joe Joyce, John Stockbauer, Michael Anderson and Thanh Ho – walked away with potential job offers from Intel Corp., the challenge's sponsor, along with the confidence of a resounding win.

The UA team was able to overcome a server crash and continue on to prove its excellence in problem solving, cooperation and developmental activities. ASU was represented by three teams whose robots could not overcome technical difficulties to defeat the UA’s team, whose robot was named Aegis. The UA team robot was developed in the UA Robotics and Neural Systems Laboratory.

This year’s challenge consisted of a series of educational and developmental activities, including learning, coaching, cooperation, problem solving and prototype development of security robots for office environments that can function autonomously or can be commanded through remote monitor stations.

The challenge was held in an indoor office environment with a number of cubicles, which served as the testing ground. The team’s robots had to show their ability to learn the floor plan of the testing ground by generating and sending a map of the testing area to the monitor station.

In addition, the robot had to detect objects and/or people placed in the surveillance testing ground and send an alert and transmit a video of the object or person to the station. The robot also had to track any people it detected and request a security code or password. In addition, the robot had to serve as a fire alarm if it detected intense heat.

The Intel challenge was created to bring together industry and university technologies to test the limits of robotics know-how.

“Intel wants to enable innovative people to bring new products and services that will help improve people's lives around the world. Collaborating with Arizona universities allows us to identify the best and brightest college students in the state. We believe the innovation and ingenuity this type of collaboration brings expands the possibilities of business and university partnerships," said Marcos Garcia Acosta, embedded emerging segments manager at the Embedded Computing Division of Intel Corp.

The UA’s faculty mentors, electrical and computer engineering associate professors Charles Higgins and M. Anthony Lewis , and the UA computer engineering students pitted their know-how against ASU's computer science and engineering lecturer Yinong Chen and ASU computer engineering students.

"Even more than the engineering skills the students showed, I was impressed with their ability to work under pressure, to make significant changes to their system with only 10 seconds to go. That's the kind of leadership skill you can't really teach," Higgins said.

UA team member Ho said, "We are truly thankful for our advisers Dr. Higgins and Dr. Lewis. They have been extremely supportive and enthusiastic about this project."

"The students exceeded my expectations.  Their hard work, enthusiasm, and skill tells me that they are the best of the best," added Lewis.