Robo death match
Cal State Long Beach student Justin Lanza will travel Tuesday to a warehouse in Vallejo, Calif., where massive machine death is a certainty.
Lanza and other CSULB senior electronics engineering technology majors are looking to avenge the 2005 death of Stingray in this week’s BattleBots Collegiate Championship — a fight-to-the-death tournament for robots — with a retooled fighter named Sharktooth.
Sharktooth is “more ferocious” and “more of a killing machine” than its late predecessor, Lanza said.
Stingray, CSULB’s last competitive robot, which served as the basis of the new robot’s design, defeated robots from MIT and the University of Florida before falling short against Cal Tech at the Minnesota BattleBots competition four years ago.
“This time we’re going to see if we can go a little further,” Lanza said. “But as long as we beat UCLA we’re going to be happy. They’re the big local [school] that everyone thinks is so great.”
CSULB’s student chapter of the International Society of Automation (ISA) will send Lanza and senior electronics engineering technology majors Rick Ramirez, Edgardo Miguel, Misael Espinoza and Adam Reyes to Northern California to participate in the event.
Lanza, president of CSULB’s ISA, will be behind the controls of Sharktooth. The 120-pound robot is equipped with five rotating 10-inch saw blades on top of its body and a non-traditional method of mobility.
“Instead of running four wheels we actually have ball-bearings on the back,” Lanza said. “It’s going to turn very quickly so we’re going to have a lot more maneuverability than we’ve ever had in the past. It can flip around really quickly to get away from any type of danger.”
Contestants will also have to battle unpredictable hazards on the fighting platforms as various weapons, including fire, can appear without warning.
“Not only do you have to pulverize your opponent, you have to watch out for the obstacles that are trying to pulverize you as well,” Lanza said. “[The weapons] can destroy your own [robot] before you even have the chance to do anything else.”
The students began brainstorming the project last semester and have been working on the robot since January. The students took what worked with Stingray — the structure, wedge-like front and low-to-the-ground build — and revamped the design to produce Sharktooth.
“It takes hours to get this type of project done,” said Walter Martinez, engineering lecturer and technical coordinator for the ISA BattleBots project. Martinez and the students meet twice a week for up to five hours per meeting.
Senior electronics engineering technology major Bill Markesey and junior electronics engineering technology major Sam Tolentino also participated in the design and assembly of Sharktooth.
Since the robot is autonomous — or radio-controlled — Martinez said that the students could eventually take what they’ve learned into building other autonomous robots for military use.
BattleBots, created by CSULB alumnus Trey Roski, was made popular by a television series of the same name that aired on Comedy Central for five seasons and 94 episodes from 2000 to 2002.
The event will be taped by ESPN to be shown at a later date on ESPN2 and ESPNU and will mark the first time a BattleBots event will be televised since its cancellation from Comedy Central.
Registration for the event was $500 and prizes for the winning robots have yet to be determined.
CSULB’s ISA received donations from the Los Angeles and Orange County chapters of ISA of $1,250 and $1,000, respectively. Associated Students Inc. also contributed $1,200 on a reimbursement basis, for travel expenses.
Ramirez acknowledges that trying to beat UCLA is a motivation for ISA, though it is not the ultimate goal.
“We’re going to take the whole thing,” Ramirez said.