December 8, 2009

Public Invited to Test Video Games, See Robots Compete Thursday

Free and open to the public, a full day of video-game and robotics student competitions at UNM's Electrical & Computer Engineering Department on December 10 presents an opportunity for gaming and robotics fans to take a break and start enjoying some of the fun that is a hallmark of the holiday season.

This week, student teams in two courses are revving up for the final test of their semester-long projects, and in both cases it is a very public test. The Robotics Challenge concludes the ECE 131 Programming Fundamentals course, and the Video Game Competition is the final step in ECE/CS 412, Introduction to Computer Graphics.

On Thursday, the department will open its large, vaulted atrium and the main conference room on its first floor to welcome anyone who wishes to drop in during the day to test play brand-new, student-developed video games and see how students use creative programming to send a robot through a maze full of obstacles without using remote controls.

For starters, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the main conference room, and spilling over into the atrium our outdoors, students in the ECE 131 course will present their robotics projects and compete for prizes. Ten teams of about six students each will pit their programming skills against each other using a sensor-equipped robot that they constructed. Their quest is to traverse an obstacle-strewn maze, defined by black lines on the ground, faster than their opponents.

The robotics teams will be judged in four stages, each with increased difficulty. Serving as judge will be Mr. Mike Majedi, ECE's senior Engineering Lab coordinator and the designer of the "LoboTank" robot, which provided a framework for the students' robots. The course is taught by ECE Professor Greg Heileman.

Game On!

Then, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., visitors will have a chance to test-play brand new video games created by students in ECE Assistant Professor Pradeep Sen's Introduction to Computer Graphics class, ECE/CS 412. The students developed their games for Microsoft's Xbox 360 game console.

An array of games will be set up in the atrium with big-screen monitors for visitors to try out. Test players' comments will be welcomed by the judges, who will begin their deliberations at 5 p.m..

This is the third year for this Video Game Competition, which is hosted by UNM's Advanced Graphics Lab (AGL), and it always draws a large number of fans : both the curious and the serious in the gaming community.

This year for the first time, AGL will also showcase three video games developed in Professor Sen's advanced video game class. These games have been through a copyright process and are already uploaded onto Microsoft's Xbox Web site. They are currently being reviewed for eventual purchase by the public through the Indie Games section of the Xbox LIVE site. Trailers of the games are viewable on AGL's YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/advancedgraphicslab .

In a 40-minute podcast interview, Professor Sen talks about what digital media and computer graphics are, the collaboration on digital media between engineers and artists at UNM, and job prospects for graduates. The interview was conducted by UNM Communications.

ECE is located just yards from the corner of Central Ave. and University Blvd., at the southwest corner of the UNM campus. It is in building number 46 on UNM's campus map. For directions, click here. And get ready for some fun.