Second annual robot challenge at Sand Dunes

(03-31-2008)

On April 5 Adams State College Physics Program is hosting the Colorado Robot Challenge at the Great Sand Dunes National Park. Dr. Matthew Nehring, professor of physics and department chair of chemistry, computer science, and mathematics, built a Lego robot that will be entered into the event.

"There are a lot of ways to build a robot," Nehring said. "My goal was to build my robot using all Legos. The only exception is the antennae.''

Dr. Randy Emmons, professor of physics, is organizing the Second Annual Colorado Robot Challenge. Competitors will build and program robots to navigate the Mars-like terrain of the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.

The robots will need to pick a path though various mazes. "The area near the Great Sand Dunes National Monument is an excellent location for a simulated Mars mission," Emmons said. "The challenges the terrain presents are not trivial; it is the perfect outdoors laboratory where different ideas can be tested and evaluated."

The event is open to all colleges/universities in Colorado and high schools, the event is co-sponsoring by the Colorado Space Grant Consortium, headquartered at the University of Colorado-Boulder, which is funded by NASA.

Thirty years ago the two Viking Landers touched down on Mars. According to Emmons the Landers' cameras used in space were tested at the Great Sand Dunes National Monument. "s recently as fall 2006, scientists were studying the movement of the dunes in an attempt to understand atmospheric conditions of that distant planet," Emmons said.

There are no awards given to successful robots. "We will share what we learn; both successes and failures," Emmons said.

Emmons has a history of promoting robotic events on campus. For the past few years he has visited San Luis Valley high school students and brought students to campus to learn more about the burgeoning robotic industry, at no cost to the high schools.

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By Linda Relyea