As college basketball teams around the country began playing their way down to the Final Four, Stanford engineering students had their own March Madness, complete with a cheering crowd and heated competition. This year, for Stanford’s annual battle-of-the-bots, a competition held since 1995 as part of a mechatronics class, went basketball-crazy, with the theme “scoring machines.”
Inspired by this year’s Golden State Warriors players Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, the students set out to build robots capable of shooting balls into baskets as efficiently as those basketball stars. (Thompson recently set an NBA record of 37 points in a quarter; Curry had a 50-point game.)
Each robot had two minutes, starting from a random position at the end of the miniaturized court, and could score 1, 2, or 3 points for each ball in a basket, depending on the distance to the selected basket from the “ball inbounding zone”.
The 34 teams had 22 days to build their robots. The winning team went for the long shot (literally), and its robot made 18 three-point shots. A close competitor sunk 20 two-point shots, according to Stanford mechanical engineering professor and basketball fan Thomas Kenny, who ran this year’s project.
The students competing included sophomores, juniors, seniors, and graduate students, from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, computer science, civil engineering, aero/astro, engineering physics, math, philosophy, business, and even fine arts. Says Kenny: “We find that students from all across the university are seeking some of these skills to enable them to work on the problems that they care about and find the jobs that they want.”
See some of the action in the video above.
Correction to photo credit made 30 March.
Tekla S. Perry is a senior editor at IEEE Spectrum. Based in Palo Alto, Calif., she's been covering the people, companies, and technology that make Silicon Valley a special place for more than 30 years. An IEEE member, she holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from Michigan State University.