On April 8-9, 2005, Graceland had 11 computer science and information technology students and 2 faculty travel to the annual Midwest Instruction and Computing Symposium (MICS) in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, to attend presentations and compete in programming and robotic contests. Over 250 people attended the conference, in which there were 36 faculty and 41 student presentations, 28 programming teams, and 8 robot contest entries. Graceland had one student presenting a paper, two programming teams, and three robot entries.
Jimmy Christofis presented a senior project paper entitled "Simulation of an All Terrain Hexapod using Lego Mindstorms" and he received the "Best Undergraduate Student Research Paper" award at the awards banquet. His six-legged Lego robot drew special interest by spectators who attended his presentation.
Graceland had two teams in the programming competition. Team A++, with Aaron Twombly, Bojan Raic, and Blake Grundman, completed two problems and finished in 6th place. Robo Jackets, with Jimmy Christofis, Dritan Zhuja, and Michael Robins, completed one problem in the 2 1/2 hour time limit. Only the first and second place teams completed three problems, and many finished none. So this was a good showing.
The final event was the robot competition in which each robot was placed at a starting point on a grid and had to search for a black goal square and return to its starting point with the fastest time. The judges moved the obstacles and goal square between runs to keep things interesting.
Graceland placed first and second in this contest. Megan Fryer, lead designer for Graceland's female robotics team, held the best time after the first round, but Dritan Zhuja's robot won by a large margin in the final round with Graceland against Graceland on a more complicated maze. It is the second year Dritan has won this event. This year his robot nodded to the crowd as they applauded after it finished. Dritan also gave a demonstration before all spectators to show other tricks that were programmed into his robot if the obstacles had been placed in a nastier pattern. Graceland's third robot entry, by Michael Robins, brought a collective sigh from the entire crowd after navigating the various obstacles to reach the goal, only to stop short of the goal for no apparent reason, like an unruly child refusing to take another step.
Others attending the conference were Samantha Bigger, Sha Chen, David Kistner, and Norman Wong. Bob Farnham and Jim Jones were the faculty sponsors. Expenses for this trip and components for the different robots were funded by the Ackerley Computer Science and Technology Scholars Program at Graceland.
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