Welcome to Robotathon 2017!

If you have no idea what all this is, see the FAQ below.

Administrivia

Join the UT RAS Slack (channel #robotathon-2017) to keep up-to-date on news and announcements.

Robotathon mentors, our supremely talented (yeah, we’ll go with that) group of robotics aficionados will gladly help you with Robotathon stuff during the week at office hours, held in the new EER building Innovation Center (that room down the left hallway from the main entryway).

The Robotathon Conference 2017, where we give you a crash course in robots, is on September 23, 2017. The schedule is here.

A Google calendar with important Robotathon events is at the bottom of this page (not here, because it’s ginormous).

Competition Rules

This year’s competition is RASCAR! Race a robot. Full rules are here.

Robotathon Tech Talks

Here are the presentations used at the 2017 Robotathon conference:

Mechanics - Electronics - Programming - Version Control

…and notes on the later tech talks:

Rasware Crash Course - Algorithms

Software

As far as programming the TI Launchpad microcontroller boards we will supply you with to control your robots goes, we will support people using our custom software library, Rasware, compiled on the latest (Linux) Ubuntu LTS release 16.04. If you run Windows or macOS, you can run Ubuntu inside of a virtual machine on your current computer. We’ll probably do our best to help you if you want to do something a little different, but no promises.

Installation

Anyway, we have a good guide on getting started at the Rasware Git repo here. Go there and look to the README.md file, which should be prominently displayed if you’re on a desktop computer (GitHub changes the site layout on mobile), for instructions on how to install a virtual machine on Windows or Mac, work with GitHub, and start working with Rasware.

For Windows users: we have a more nicely formatted and maybe slightly more approachable form of the same instructions here.

Text Editing

You’ll be using the terminal on Ubuntu to interface with GitHub.

To edit code in Ubuntu, unless you want to go hardcore with vim or something, you may as well install the text editor Atom on your virtual machine according to their instructions here.

CAD

The official Computer Aided Design (CAD) model of the 2017 Robotathon field is here! This is a STEP format file - your CAD program of choice, be it Fusion 360, SolidWorks, or something else - should be able to import it without any trouble.

CAD Programs

If you’re an engineer at UT, you can use SolidWorks via virtual desktop from here.

If you’re not an engineer and/or want to install software directly to your computer, you can check out Autodesk Fusion 360, which is free for students, here.

This year's Robotathon field

FAQ

So What is Robotathon?

Robotathon is an annual event held every Fall semester at the University of Texas at Austin by the UT IEEE Robotics and Automation Society (RAS [răz]). This competition is essentially a two month long bootcamp for robotics culminating in a large, sports-like competition that pits each teams’ robot against each other in a tournament style battle-to-the-death (not really, though that would be cool) for glory and honor (and bragging rights). It is designed for newcomers and robotics veterans alike, although if you’re really good at this thing already, you’ll probably be better off joining one of our other committees from the start. Each fall, over 100 people are arranged in teams to participate in this competition developed entirely in-house by RAS Leaders to be entertaining, challenging, and relevant to important basic concepts in robotics.

What is this year’s competition?

RASCAR! Race a robot. Full rules are here.

When does Robotathon happen?

Robotathon is started with the Robotathon Conference, 23 September 2017. Teams will have been assigned by this point, and will receive their parts. From then until the competition, weekly workshops covering topics from mechanical design to advanced algorithms for robotics will improve your skills. In addition, once Robotathon gets rolling, weekly checkpoints pay out points that will count towards your final competition score. Robotathon itself is held in late November, the Monday of Thanksgiving Week.

Checkpoints?

Checkpoints are a set of weekly ‘tasks’ that help keep teams on track for the competition. While they are not required, they help you earn points towards your final competition score! They include tasks such as design proposals, documentation, PCB soldering, and algorithm implementation.

And Workshops?

Starting in early September, various leaders in RAS will hold talks twice a week (Wednesday/Thursday) in the evening on topics in which they are experts. These cover various facets of robotics. Once the competition starts, workshops will help teach topics related to the competition and they will provide an open forum for any questions.

What do I need to know to participate?

Absolutely nothing! All you need is a open mind and a desire to learn. While this is a competition, it is, above all, a learning experience designed to help teach robotics to those that want to learn. In addition, all participants are generally on the same level, because this competition is restricted to newcomers to RAS, which happens to be primarily freshmen!

Who competes?

Over 100 students are selected among those who sign up, and participate in assigned teams of 6 people. As mentioned above, this competition is aimed for those new to college robotics, so students are only allowed to compete once. Students that wish to help out in future years can then become mentors!

How do I sign up?

Sorry, application for Robotathon 2017 is closed.

It turns out that we’re really popular: while we try to let as many people compete as we can, our club only has so many members to help teach robotics, so we don’t always have the resources to take everyone. In 2017, over 300 people applied, but we only had room to accept maybe half that… :(

Don’t let that discourage you from signing up next year! Keep an eye out for an application link here in fall 2018.

UT RAS

UT RAS is the organization that puts on this event. We are an entirely student operated club and one of the most prominent organizations in the UT Cockrell School of Engineering. We’re primarily a project based organization, which means that, in addition to our awesome social events, there’s almost always something being built in our office at any point during the academic year.

We frequently demo for UT open houses, local STEM events, and incoming engineering freshmen, so you may have seen us around already!

More FAQ

Do I have to be a UT student to participate/attend?

Yes. This is currently an event for only UT students. In addition, you must not have participated in a previous year’s Robotathon.

Does this cost anything?

Yes. To participate in Robotathon, you must pay RAS membership dues ($15) and a fee for special Robotathon parts ($20) for the semester, totaling $35.

How much time does this take?

The time frame for the event is about two months; but participating in the event is requires about the same amount of time as a light class. The big difference here is that Robotathon, unlike many first semester classes, is a very hands on and practical event. By participating in Robotathon, you will learn a large amount of information that you won’t even touch on in classes until sophomore, junior, or even senior year. It does require some effort, but is very much worth it.

Any further questions about Robotathon or RAS?

Our office is, um, eventually going to be part of the new Maker Studio in EER. Until the room is finished enough for us to move in, we’re nomads. Sorry. But you can find our members walking around campus.

More reliably, for any addition questions, concerns, clarifications, etc., feel free to contact us. Occasionally, we will update this FAQ with EVEN MORE frequently asked questions and their answers.

Some contacts (more are on our contacts page):

  • Brian Wilmarth (President): ras_president (at) utlists (dot) utexas (dot) edu
  • Isabel Cachola (Robotathon Committee Chair)

Robotathon 2017 Calendar

Interested in checking out a sample?

Here's last year's competition.