March 25, 2005 11:03 AM PST

Robots ready to rumble

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against humans in a soccer match. Their inspiration comes from Deep Blue, the supercomputer that challenged chess master Garry Kasparov in the late 1990s.

People from 15 countries have come here to take part, and the competition is growing--the number of entrants is up 20 percent. Furthermore, they're not all gearheads.

"I'd say only 20 percent are engineers. The rest are lawyers, students, teachers and hobbyists," Calkins said.

Roman Vaisberg and Dan Rupert, a student-teacher team from San Diego, created their Body Slam robot in six months. This is their first time attending RoboGames. Body Slam scoops up robots with its mechanical arm, then slams them down.

Vaisberg said that while learning how to make robots and having fun are important, his team is here to win. It is, after all, a competition.

"It would be upsetting to throw out tons of time and money, not to win," said 18-year-old Vaisberg.

Calkins said that's the way it should be viewed, in order to draw more attention to robots and engineering.

"This is a competition, and while there is some money involved, people do this for the love of the sport, and that should be cultivated," he said.

Those who win medals in events are given some prize money, but not enough to cover the expense of building a robot, which can cost several thousands of dollars, depending on what the robot does.

But there are other ways the competition pays off, contestants say.

The Hotarys began designing their Funnel Cloud robot, which flips and pushes rivals, in September, after being inspired by last year's games.

"We caught the bug last year, when we went from being spectators to deciding to jump in and compete," Kevin said. Nicholas "didn't sound impressed, but it's really amazing how much he knows now, because of what we went through to get our robot ready."

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Where's Nicolas' other father ? Or is the comma missing in lead?
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Robots, Did Somebody Say Robots
I've got more photos here:

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