Robots resembling boot, stapler, ball compete for prizes, bragging rights

The gold ball bounced forlornly downward. The stapler stuck to the ground. But the big, black boot made it to the top, winning the annual Technion university robot contest a scientific competition with a sense of humor.

The event, called TechnoBrain, brings out the inventive and creative talents of students, who try to fulfill a tongue-in-cheek robotic chore with appropriate technical and design flare.

Each team of contestants designs and builds a robot that has to perform a specific job. The designated task, which changes every year, is announced three months before the contest and is often based on a spring holiday or event.

This year, in honor of Israel's Independence Day on May 3, each robot entered in TechnoBrain had to climb a thin, 30-meter- (100-foot-) high rope that extended from the ground to the top of the university's Amado Architecture Building. Once at the top and not a moment before the robot had to unfurl and raise a flag to commemorate Israeli independence. Each robot had only one minute to complete the task.

The competition was divided into two age groups: high school students and university students.

Although the contestants who built the 18 competing robots abided by the rules prohibiting human intervention once each machine was set in motion, some of them did jump up and down a lot, while others pulled their hair or called out encouraging comments to their creations.

A robot named "Mechanical Jesus: The Messiah Strikes Back" won the competition among the high schoolers. The robot's 16-year-old builders, Yotan Rossenblat and Tomer Fridel of the ORT Holon school near Tel Aviv, said the name is a tribute to the robot of the same name they built for last year's contest, when robots had to cross over water and pour wine, in honor of the Jewish holiday of Passover.

Rossenblat and Fridel placed second last year hence the subtitle added to the name of this year's Mechanical Jesus, which looked more like a long, black boot with a spoked steering wheel at the bottom, reports AP.

O.Ch.