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Sumo-wrestling robots programmed by Surrey girls do battle

03/18/2015 08:17 EDT | Updated 05/18/2015 05:59 EDT
The battle is on for a bunch of sumo-wrestling Lego robots built and programmed by 100 elementary school girls from Surrey, B.C.

The robots, equipped with ultrasonic sensors, are part of a spring break workshop coordinated by the Surrey School District and Simon Fraser University.

Tina Tran, the youth outreach coordinator for SFU's Faculty of Applied Sciences, says she believes the robotics workshop will have a positive influence on the young girls.

"One of the things that stopped me from pursuing computer science was lack of self confidence," Tran said in an interview with The Early Edition.

"I did it at home, but in the school environment and in my extracurricular [activities], I never really had the opportunity to explore and to have mentors at such a young age."

The girls learn how to use software to make a "brain" for the robot, which will then move on its own.

The robots start off by facing away from other, as if they're in an old Western duel. Then they pace out to the edge of the ring, turn around to face each other, and then charge to try and push the other out.

"The idea is you get two girls, put them inside a ring and they try to knock the other robot out," said SFU student Fraser MacWilliams.

"We're saying, 'Hey, you can actually do this. You can make your own robotic system using just simple Lego pieces.'"

It's the first time SFU has partnered with the Girls in Action outreach program to get more young girls into programming and engineering.

Boys in the Sticks and Stars program have been learning how to make robots with SFU since 2012.

To hear the full interview, click on the audio labelled: Sumo-wrestling robots duke it out

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