One of the College of Engineering’s newest student organizations, Bengal Reauxbotics, won the its first round in the annual combat robotics competition at Dragoncon 2016 in Atlanta, Georgia, held over Labor Day weekend.
Robot Battles, a fixture at the annual fantasy convention, is the second oldest robotic combat competition in the world and the first event the LSU Bengal Reauxbotics team took its 30-pound combat robot to compete against teams from other universities, both undergraduate and graduate organizations, and professionals from the combat robotics community. The team’s vehicle, best described as a “pusher, sumo-styled” robot by Bengal Robotics president Marlou de Guzman, held up against machines from schools like Massachusetts Institute of Technology for bragging rights.
“Well,” the electrical engineering senior laughed. “They didn’t mention any prize money, but the recognition from professionals in the battle bot community that come to watch our competitions is great. There are also invitations to compete on a larger scale.”
The beginnings of Bengal Reauxbotics started in another College of Engineering student organization, the Society of Peer Mentors.
“Basically, at one of the SPM meetings, they asked the room if anyone was interested in combat robotics,” de Guzman explained. “So, our first group of members all happened to be in the robotics minor and also in SPM. They brought us together, but from there it was pretty much us on our own.”
The organization currently hosts nine members, with growing numbers, according to de Guzman, who has been president of the organization since the spring semester.
The organization wrapped up its first machine at the top of the Fall 2016 semester, he said, leaving the remaining academic year open with opportunity for more members and more projects.
Bengal Reauxbotics plans to host fundraising events during the semester to fund these future robots, and has had some luck with alternative sources, like spare part donations from the Society of Peer Mentors.
“We’ve had some sponsorships, and even a grant,” de Guzman said. “And we actually still have our GoFundMe account set up from when we were raising funds to send our members to compete at Dragoncon.”
He added that the team surpassed their goal and plans to take the remaining money and “go beyond” just one competition for the year.
“I initially joined this organization with the understanding that it was only covering combat robotics, but then we named ourselves, ‘Bengal Reauxbotics’— allowing us to go beyond and explore the various fields of robotics outside of combat,” de Guzman said.
The first project the organization accepted outside of the combat field is Camerabot, a project requested by a local photographer who saw the robotics team’s current machine on social media.
“I was sharing what our group was working on one day on my SnapChat,” de Guzman said. “And I got a message from a friend who is a photographer, asking more about our robot, and if we’d be willing to create one for him.”
The project will call for focuses different from the team’s recent 30-pound combat robot, he said, with special attention to “shocks, being sure the robot can support a hefty video camera and navigate different terrains.”
De Guzman said the project was right on time, as newer members of the organization will get some much needed time with building a robot before their next competition.
“I want our newer members to work on something where they can see the progress and results, before MomoCon,” he said, referring to a similar fantasy convention held in May that also hosts robot battle events.
De Guzman said all of the newer members are interested in robotics, but are majoring in things like physics, math, digital art and secondary education. Camerabot, he said, will “give us all the opportunity to try some different robots together.”
“If this is successful, it’ll open more opportunities for other types of robots, for different purposes, which is what we want as an organization,” he said. “We want to give students interested in robotics a place the build and create what they want.”
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If you’re interested in joining Bengal Reauxbotics, contact Marlou de Guzman at email@example.com. For more information, please contact communications assistant M.B. Humphrey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 225-578-5660.