For the second year in a row, a group of UR students won first place in the American Association of Artificial Intelligence robot contest held in August in Acapulco, Mexico. UR also tied for third place in the Robot Rescue competition, where a robot maps a chaotic environment while attempting to find human “casualties.”

Led by senior Thomas Kollar, the team of six students used some of the codebase from last year’s winning robot – Mabel the Mobile Table – and created a new robot body with a touch screen, naming the robot Mabel the Mobile Infoserver.

“This robot has been an ongoing project over the last two years,” Kollar said.

“I think we won this year because of the sophistication and diversity of our algorithms and approach,” computer science professor and adviser Chris Brown said. “Mabel was equipped with two rings of sonar range-finders, a very sophisticated algorithm to localize herself in the hall – a hard problem for robots, it turns out – a program that found people, located and tracked their faces, located and read their conference ID badges, and had a natural language speech interface and a touch-screen interface to a database of conference activities.”

Despite the fact that one of the five pieces of major equipment failed to arrive on time, Kollar said that the conference “was a lot of fun.”

The group also met a Mexican police officer after one of their rental cars drove through a red light while heading to the airport, according to Kollar.

The trip was paid for in part by grants from the AAAI, Dean of The College William Green and the computer science department.

Green was impressed with the team’s success. “This makes two in a row” Green said. “It tells a lot about the creativity of our students. It’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent,” he added.

Last weekend, the robotics team participated in a television program called “Robot Rivals,” on an invitation from the Do-It-Yourself Network, Kollar said.

The show pits two college teams against each other to build a robot to overcome a specific challenge in one day. Junior Greg Briggs, freshman Geoff Dawson, and Take Five Scholar Eric Lunin attended the filming in Knoxville, Tenn.

Additional reporting by Colin Brown. Schnee can be reached at

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