North American Robotics Association

What is NARA?


The North American Robotics Association is housed at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.  Our main objective is the promotion of mini-sumo robotics in educational and club environments. 

Two main activities so far:

1. Sponsor the annual University of Northern Iowa (UNI) MiniSumo Robotics Invitational, annual, since 2006. 

2. Support the UNI Summer MiniSumo Camp for high school students, first offered June 21 - July 2, 2010.

Goals for NARA are listed below.

Support World's Only Competition Welcoming Shipped Robots

One of our main activities is sponsorship of the annual University of Northern Iowa (UNI) MiniSumo Robotics Invitational.  The competition is broadcast live on the internet from the Hemisphere Lounge of the UNI Maucker Union. Since April, 2006, when we presented our first live broadcast, we have had robots shipped from British Colombia, Canada, Hawaii, Texas, Indiana, Illinois, and Washington State.

Though we are housed at UNI, we have assumed the somewhat 'grand' title of North American Robotics Association, because, in fact, we have already received robots from far across North America.  We are eager to receive our first ship-in robot from Mexico.  We hope, also, to have ship-ins from Singapore, and other leading mini-sumo robotics centers.  We point out that shipping a sumo to Iowa is relatively inexpensive compared to hand-carrying a sumo from Singapore, for example, to San Francisco.  Hence we offer the opportunity for sumo robotics enthusiasts to discover if their robot is ready to go out into the world on its own, and we offer the opportunity to do so at a relatively low cost.  Every ship-in robot received adds to the learning of our students and the excitement of our annual MiniSumo Invitational event.  Please also note that video records of the previous year's Invitational competitions are available on this webpage. And if you ship your robot, your sumo's activity will be recorded for the entire world to view.  The top two overall competitors, and the top student competitor receive plaque awards.  See the "Previous Winners" section of this web page for examples.

Support the UNI MiniSumo Robotics Camp

The first UNI mini-sumo summer robotics camp was offered during summer 2010.  Lots of information about the previous camps is available on the Camps section of this webpage.  The robotics summer camp supports our goal of being a resource for teachers, students and  club robotics members wanting to participate in mini-sumo robotics. 

Promote MiniSumo Robotics in High Schools

High school teachers, and many science/physics education majors at UNI have taken one of the mini-sumo robotics courses offered in the UNI Physics Department.  One high school student shipped a sumo robot to our competition (2011)

We believe that mini-sumo robotics can be a cost-effective and engaging approach to educational and club robotics.  Example:  FIRST has two levels of competition for high schools with price ranges of $25,000 and $5,000.  A base mini-sumo  robot can be constructed for under $300.  We hope, over time, to post useful technical information about low-cost mini-sumo robotics and robomagellan robotics for educational and club environments.

Promote Robotics at the University of Northern Iowa

Another goal is to become a window to robotics activities at the Unversity or Northern Iowa, and elsehwere.  At UNI, robotics education and research is carried out in three or more departments.  In Computer Science, Dr. Mark Fienup and Dr. Ben Schafer do teaching and research on artificial intelligence aspects of robotics, and provide strong support to local Legos League robotics and FIRST robotics.  In Industrial Technology, Dr. Jeff Nie and Dr. Jin Zhu lead project work in robots with grasping characteristics.  Student projects include animatronics (Jeff Rick).  And in Physics, Mr. Randy Dumse, Physics alum, and founder and president of New Micros Inc., in Dallas Texas, and Dr. Dale Olson lead activities in the area of autonomous robotics.  In the Physics Department, Mr. Dumse and Dr. Olson have been developing two courses related to mini-sumo robotics.  As of this writing, a six-servo bipedal robot (ankels, knees and hips) has been constructed, and much progress has been made on a Robomagellan vehicle.

Further Robomagellan

Also, not directly related to the MiniSumo Invitational, intermediate and advanced robotics project and course work on Robomagellan is underway.  Physics graduate student Matt Karl is building on work initiated by Mr. Dumse who led previous students Eddie Maldonado and Shawn Breuklander into this area.  

Robomagellan is a form of autonomous vehicle robotics, in which the robot attempts to traverse a course marked by orange traffice cones distributed over an area with extent on the order of one-quarter mile. Robomagellan competition is modeled after the 2004 and 2005 autonomous vehicle Grand Darpa Challenge.  Autonomous vehicles traveled through the dessert over distances on the order of one hundred miles in 2005, but made it only about seven miles in 2004.  Robomagellan is the club/college/university version of the Grand Darpa Challen.  Physics graduate student Matt Karl has provided leadership with our Robomagellan project.