When Robots Race, the Student Engineers Win

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Surprisingly, an obstacle course for robots teaches practical skills.

The California Institute of Technology Engineering department recently held its annual robotics competition. This year's theme? The "Robstacle Course." The competition featured five teams of mechanical engineering students and their engineering prowess.

The students were told the challenge at the beginning of the year and then spent months developing prototypes and testing them. Ultimately, they each had to come up with three robots that could compete across seesaws, up ramps and around pylons.

"Every year with this course, we come up with a completely different set of tasks—it's a completely different game," said Michael Mello, a mechanical and civil engineering lecturer at Caltech.

In addition to providing a technical challenge, the race also fosters team-building skills needed for real-world engineering jobs.

"That's what you want to hire," Mello said. "You wanna hire people that, when the stress is high, when the pressure's on, those are the cool heads in the room."

To see these robots in action, check out the video below from CNET: