WPI/Mass Academy Entry Reaches Semifinals In National FIRST Competition in Florida

Contact: WPI Media Relations, 508-831-5616

WORCESTER, Mass. - "Gompei," the SpiderGoat, this year's entry by WPI and the Massachusetts Academy of Mathematics and Science in the annual FIRST robotics competition, reached the semifinals of the national championship at EPCOT Center in Orlando, Fla., today. The WPI/Mass. Academy team, working in an alliance with four other teams, was defeated by an alliance led by Daimler Chrysler/ Avondale (Mich.) High School "Killer Bees." More than 10,000 high school students from across the nation competed in the event.

Before entering the semifinals, Gompei, cheered on by more than 100 students, teachers and parents from Central Massachusetts, competed in eight preliminary matches, finishing in 20th position in the Archimedes Division. The 355 teams competing in the finals were grouped in four divisions, all named for famous scientists. This year's FIRST competition pited alliances of robots against one another and the clock as they placed balls into goals, carried other robots on stretchers, and jostled for position in the "end zone."

The Killer Bees scored only 59 points at the outset of the semifinal round, which were answered by 416-point and 124-point rounds by the Spider Goat alliance, notes William W. Durgin, associate provost at WPI, who attended the FIRST finals. "But then the Killer Bee alliance produced a spectacular scoring round with 600 points," Durgin says. "The Spider Goat alliance managed a 480-point round, but it was not enough move on to the finals."

Gompei was designed and built by a team of more than 40 Mass Academy students, students from Doherty High School in Worcester, and 100 WPI students, faculty and staff advisors. In March, the robot and its team placed first in the Long Island Regional completion in East Islip, where it did battle against 32 other entries. It also received the Motorola Quality Award, which recognizes the robustness of the overall design and construction.

According to Ken Stafford, manager of academic initiatives at WPI, who serves as coach and mentor to the team, SpiderGoat's success is, in large part, a tribute to its ingenious design and its still-secret "hamster-power" option. "Besides having an agile driveline with unsurpassed speed and a nimble arm that can place balls into scoring positions virtually anywhere on the field, the 118-pound machine has unique spider-like auxiliary legs," he says.

The legs enable the robot to lift and balance other robots and goals for score-multiplying maneuvers. Five air cylinders and five electric motors drive its aluminum and plastic workings. Equipped with nine separate sensors and a fully customized computer brain, it is controlled by three joysticks and a dozen other switches. ("Gompei" and the "goat" in the robot's name are references to WPI's historic mascot.)

After the nationals, Stafford says the team plans to take Gompei on the road for other unofficial competitions and demonstrations at schools, libraries and churches around the region.

Team 190, the WPI/Mass Academy team, has been involved in FIRST since the competition started in 1992. It is one of six teams in the nation to have participated that long. Today, more than 500 hundred teams are involved in the FIRST competition, including teams from Brazil, Canada and Puerto Rico.

Dean Kamen '73, founder of FIRST and president of DEKA Research Corp. in Manchester, N.H., was recently at WPI to receive the inaugural WPI Presidential Medal, which recognizes outstanding individuals who exemplify the ideal of the technological humanist. He received an honorary degree from WPI in 1992.

The WPI Semi-Final Alliance
WPI/Mass Academy/ Massachusetts Academy of Math and Science and Doherty High School
NASA/Dynacs and Rockledge High School, and Cocoa Beach High School
General Motors and Cranbrook Kingswood High School
NASA Glen/Ford/Biomec/Arthur Anderson/ and James F. Rhodes High School
Gillette Company and Quincy Public Schools

The Competing Alliance
Daimler Chrysler/ Avondale High School and Notre Dame Preparatory
NASA Ames/Cypress Semiconductor/Unity Care/and Bellarmine College Preparatory
Motorola and John Hersey High School and Wheeling High School
Ford Motor Company/and International Academy
Northwest High School Career Center