Engineering students from universities throughout the Midwest travel to Engineering Open House to participate in the Midwestern Robotics Creative Design Competition. This student-run annual robotics competition lasts two days and features great ingenuity displayed by all participating teams. This competition started in 1987, making it one of the oldest continuing robotics competitions in America, predating both Battlebots and FIRST Robotics by several years.
The course involves the traversal of various obstacles to obtain game pieces. These game pieces will be rolled, thrown, or dropped into their respective goals, in order to score points. Each year there is a plethora of robot types, ranging from wheeled and manually-controlled robots, to autonomous robots and quadcopters. The arena is a raised platform with several different tiers. Obstacles can include moats, tunnels, and massive teeter totters. At the end of a competition there is an optional demolition round, in which robots can obliterate each other in a free for all frenzy to the last robot moving.
Each year, the competition committee meets in fall to finalize the course design and begin construction. A portion of the actual course is built in the MRDC workspace and each of the design elements is prototyped. From these prototypes, the committee is able to provide the teams with real estimates of course dimensions, weights of objects and approximate force required to open doors, etc.
To compete, members of the team must be registered at the university level during the fall or spring semester. Teams are made up of a captain and up to five members. The team roster may also include a team sponsor.
To prepare for the competition, teams are given a set of general rules and as it becomes available, they receive more detailed information about the goals and obstacles that are included in each year’s course design. Teams first see the completed course on Friday, the first day of the competition, and have an opportunity to see how their robot performs. Friday matches are usually based on which teams are ready to compete. After one or more rounds of Friday competition, a team may move their robot to the pit area and attempt to make modifications or enhancements.
At the end of Friday’s competition, scores are tallied and used to determine seeding for Saturday’s single elimination rounds, in which four robots compete at a time with the top two advancing to the next level.
At the conclusion of the competition, teams receive awards for First Place, Second Place, Third Place and optionally the committee may select a team to receive the Most Creative Design award.
A robot must be no more than 140 pounds. Flying robots must be no more than 30 pounds. Robots will be weighed each morning before the competition to ensure they meet this specification.
A robot must fit within a 3X3X3 foot cube. Once the competition begins, the robot may expand beyond these dimensions, but it must begin in collapsed form. Each match will be six minutes long and all scores are final five minutes after the end of a round.
Airborne robots have a 2x multiplier as long as they are capable of flight.
Autonomous robots have a 4x multiplier when scoring autonomously. Autonomous robots must be operated autonomously for the entire round to receive the bonus multiplier, not just during the scoring operation.