Thursday, November 3, 2011

Behind the competition: What helped power RoboBowl Pittsburgh

You don't get to be a fast-growing, 120-year-old university without knowing a little bit about innovation. So, when we were asked to help contestants in this year's RoboBowl share their creations virtually with a panel of judges, we quickly put a plan in place.

RoboBowl is a series of robotics competitions organized by the Robotics Technology Consortium and Innovation Accelerator. The goal is to identify and support start-up and early-stage companies seeking to develop next-generation products and services that address unmet needs in industries such as health care, assisted living, national security, manufacturing, and logistics.

Carnegie Mellon University played host to the final competition in Pittsburgh, Pa., and Post University sponsored and supported the virtual competitions that took place along the way.

With the help of Post University's Instructional Design and IT departments, we made it possible for RoboBowl contestants from around the country to showcase their ideas in front of a panel of judges, also located around the country.

For this competition, Post University created and moderated a branded online forum to break down the barriers of physical space, allowing judges and competitors to virtually explore concepts ranging from a tactile feedback robotics surgical system to a human rescue robot to a consumer robot that helps autistic children.

There were eight presentations in all, and five finalists moved on to Pittsburgh to present their ideas in front of a live panel of judges. RoboBowl offered the winner more than $20,000 in cash prizes. Finalists received $5,000.

The winner of this year's RoboBowl was Interbots, which developed a consumer robot dubbed "Popchilla" that allows parents and therapists to use the personality and expressions of a puppet/robot to interact with autistic children. You can see pictures of Popchilla online.

It was an honor to play an integral role in this competition. It went to the heart of what we help students achieve every day -- create innovative ways to address real-world challenges. RoboBowl was great fun, and we look forward to joining forces again soon.