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Battle of the bots

The robot, about two feet tall, has just tossed up a ball on the floor of a U of M gym.

Can a robot sink a three-pointer?

Fans of basketball and robots may find out April 7, when the U of M robotics team pits their mechanical hoopster against robots from three other collegiate teams in the finals of the Land O’ Lakes Bot Shot competition.

In March the team qualified for the finals in a virtual round. In the finals, the robots will play a live game of HORSE for the title and a $10,000 prize. Former NBA standouts David Robinson and Christian Laettner will be on hand for the event.

Designing the robot was challenging; instead of just being really good at one task, it must excel not only in shooting from different areas of the court, but in picking up basketballs and moving quickly. Assistant project leader Karl Olson, a senior studying materials science and engineering, says the biggest challenge will be consistency and making sure the robot can hit each shot with a certain motor speed and angle.

“What I like about building robots is seeing the end result,” says project leader Laura Irvine, a junior studying mechanical engineering. “Working with the design people and the coding people and just using everyone’s specialties to make one final product is a great experience. Our group as a whole has been improving the quality of robots we’ve built."

The other teams in the finals are South Dakota State University, Purdue University, and the University of Wisconsin. The game will be held in DeLaSalle High School, Minneapolis.

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities