A burning memory etched in my mind forever is of me binge watching SumoBot competitions on YouTube. Even to this day, I still get video recommendations such as “Sumobot strategies to win every competition”!

So what is SumoBots and, How did I get so obsessed?

The UNSW Mechatronics Society runs a compeittion - SumoBots, where robots two at a time attempt to knock their opponent out of a “ring”. These bots drive forward and dodge each other in an attempt to push the other robot out of the ring. I assembled an epic team to take on the challenge joined  consisting of my friends, Celia He, Emily Lu, Nathan Hu and Winnie Tan.

The term began with workshops charging us up with the foundational knowledge needed. This included navigating CAD software (and watching Solidworks overheat my laptop), fiddling around with an ArduinoNano and jumping into the Makerspace to solder. Our team was made up of only Computer-Scientists/Software-Engineers, but we quickly learnt the difference between a Laser Cutter and 3D printer!

Then we had the build sessions. Picture this: five keen programmers huddled around…a cereal box.

Well, it’s not as crazy as you think! Using our software concepts and mechanical design we built a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). We built the main structure of the robot out of a cereal box, cutting and sticking the cardboard together. This allowed us to build fast, fail fast and learn fast, ensuring that the real thing would be perfect. This idea came from when I saw a video that said how Google’s first Google Glasses prototype was built only in one day, using a coat hanger and plexiglass! We created the actual robot, laser cutting plywood. This also involved designing the glorious aesthetics, we created a SpongeBob theme and stuck real sponges onto our robot!

But soon came the strategy talks of the Sumobot. Do we attack immediately? Dodge first? How do we win?! This sent me down my exciting spiral. I watched Sumobot competitions on the train rides home and dared to venture to page 2 of Google when searching “Win a Sumobot Competition”.  Then it hit me. I needed to go to the roots, the beginning of Sumobots - I needed to investigate the art of Sumo wrestling. My desktop research taught me valuable things that I brought to both the Sumobot, and life. Our Sumobot strategy birthed: Keep pushing. Just program the robot to locate, then charge at the opponent.

As the day of the knockouts approached and, despite a small issue initially, we won our first fight - our Sumobot pushed the other robot out fiercely. Soon the grand finals came and we were locked in a tough match for third place, losing a very close game. But all was not lost! We were grateful to be awarded the “Most Aesthetic Bot” prize for our Spongebob inspired bot, which we all are very proud of.

I did not expect to have so much fun, meet so many amazing people and learn heaps from participating in this awesome term event! It has honestly inspired me to explore the space of robotics in greater detail. My renewed passion for robots has flourished and my excitement for sumo wrestling will stay with me forever.