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Aquatic robot war is Caltech's favorite sport

March 8, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
When it comes to college sports, Southern California is set. USC has football, UCLA has basketball and Caltech has aquatic robots.

The 27th annual ME 72 Engineering Design Contest has been dubbed by this year's students as The Conquest of Millikan Island, to make it sound sexier.

Six teams of mechanical engineering students go head-to-head in a pond. The goal is to get ping pong balls from a dispenser to a water vehicle and finally to various islands in the pond.

Instead of high-flying dunks, Caltech has actual dunks. And like other sports, the robots don't just score, they also have to play defense.

"You can't just build a vehicle with a chainsaw on it and just cut the other boats in half, that's not allowed, but you can definitely play defense," said Caltech competitor Sebastian Rojas.

Other schools may have bigger crowds, but the folks at Caltech will tell you it's quality, not quantity.

Case-in-point: world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, considered by many to be the world's smartest human, is a fan of the competition.

After three hours of frenzied robotic warfare, it was team Robotics Anonymous that came out on top, battling on the high seas and hoping for straight-A's.