• An Imperial Snowtrooper inspects a competitor’s entry at the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    An Imperial Snowtrooper inspects a competitor’s entry at the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • The gameboard for the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Robot Competition took the form of an X-wing Starfighter.

    The gameboard for the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Robot Competition took the form of an X-wing Starfighter.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • Professor Amos Winter (as Darth Vader) and Professor Sangbae Kim (as Chewbacca) discuss the rules for the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Professor Amos Winter (as Darth Vader) and Professor Sangbae Kim (as Chewbacca) discuss the rules for the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • A student competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    A student competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • A student competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    A student competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • Sophomore Brandon McKenzie (center, with hat) and second driver Joshua Graves (right) compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition. McKenzie would go on to place third in the competition.

    Sophomore Brandon McKenzie (center, with hat) and second driver Joshua Graves (right) compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition. McKenzie would go on to place third in the competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • Students compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Students compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Full Screen
  • Sophomore ZhiYi Liang (left) and freshman second/driver Gabriel Li, (right) compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition. Liang would go on to place fourth in the competition.

    Sophomore ZhiYi Liang (left) and freshman second/driver Gabriel Li, (right) compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition. Liang would go on to place fourth in the competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • A student competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    A student competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • Sophomore Tom Frejowski’s robot would help him go on to win the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition. Here, the robot exerts enough torque during the autonomous period, a hands-free pre-programmed time, to rotate the X-Wing’s lower thruster to its maximum speed.

    Sophomore Tom Frejowski’s robot would help him go on to win the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition. Here, the robot exerts enough torque during the autonomous period, a hands-free pre-programmed time, to rotate the X-Wing’s lower thruster to its maximum speed.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • As is the tradition, professors Sangbae Kim and Amos Winter carry the winner (Sophomore Tom Frejowski) after the final match of the competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Robot Competiton.

    As is the tradition, professors Sangbae Kim and Amos Winter carry the winner (Sophomore Tom Frejowski) after the final match of the competes in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Robot Competiton.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • Students compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Students compete in the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen
  • Left to right: Professor Amos Winter (as Darth Vader); Joshua Graves; 3rd place finisher Brandon McKenzie; 1st place winner Tom Frejowski (kneeling); 2nd place finisher Richerd Moyer; 4th place finisher ZhiYi Liang; Gabriel Li; and Professor Sangbae Kim (as Chewbacca).

    Left to right: Professor Amos Winter (as Darth Vader); Joshua Graves; 3rd place finisher Brandon McKenzie; 1st place winner Tom Frejowski (kneeling); 2nd place finisher Richerd Moyer; 4th place finisher ZhiYi Liang; Gabriel Li; and Professor Sangbae Kim (as Chewbacca).

    Photo: Tony Pulsone

    Full Screen

The Force was strong in this robot competition

An Imperial Snowtrooper inspects a competitor’s entry at the 2017 MIT Mechanical Engineering 2.007 Student Design Final Robot Competition.

MechE class ends semester with ingeniously designed robots battling on a “Star Wars”-themed playing field.


Press Contact

Karl-Lydie Jean-Baptiste
Email: kjeanbap@MIT.EDU
Phone: (617) 253-1682
MIT News

Media Resources

13 images for download

Access Media

Media can only be downloaded from the desktop version of this website.

In one of MIT’s most eagerly awaited annual events, Thursday night dozens of robots designed and built by undergraduates in a mechanical engineering class endured hours of intense, boisterous, and often jubilant competition as they scrambled to rack up points in one-on-one clashes on special “Star Wars”-themed playing arenas.

As has often happened in these contests — which have been going on, and constantly evolving, since 1970 — the ultimate winner in the single-elimination tournament was not the one that’d most consistently racked up the highest scores all evening. Rather, it was a high-scoring bot that triumphed when its competitor missed a crucial scoring opportunity because its starting position was just slightly out of alignment.

The class, 2.007 (Design and Manufacturing I), which has 165 mostly sophomore students, begins by giving each student an identical kit of parts, from which they each have to create a robot to carry out a variety of tasks to score points. This year, in a nod to the 40th anniversary of the first “Star Wars” film, released in 1977, the robots crawled around and over a replica of a “Star Wars” X-wing Starfighter. Students could earn points by pulling up a sliding frame to rescue prisoners trapped in carbonite; by dumping Imperial stormtroopers into a trash trench; by activating a cantina band; or by spinning up one or both of two large cylindrical thrusters on the wings. Students could choose which tasks to have their robot try to accomplish, and had just one semester to design, test, and operate their bot.

The devices could be pre-programmed to carry out set tasks, but could also be manually controlled through a radio-linked controller. As in past years, the open-ended nature of the assignment — and the variety of different ways to score — led to a wide range of strategies and designs, spanning from tall towers that would extend by telescoping out or with hinged sections, to elevator-like lifting devices, to small and nimble bots that scurried around to carry out multiple tasks, to an array of arms and devices for grasping or turning the different pieces. They sported names like Dodocopter, Bonnie and Clyde, Pitfall, Torque Toilet, Spinit to Winit, and Nicki Spinaj.

Students could earn extra points by accomplishing any of the tasks during an initial period when the robot had to perform autonomously, before the start of a manually remote-controlled round. The students were allowed to create multiple robots to carry out different tasks, as long as they were all made from the basic kit of parts, and all fit within a designated starting area. Most of the students opted to build two devices, and some even made three.

Second-place finisher Richard Moyer, with his small but powerful and robust robot called Tornado, consistently scored 960.5 points in every round (the highest score achieved by any of the bots), by spinning both the lower and upper thrusters to their maximum speeds — and by using the lower thruster during the high-scoring autonomous period. But on the final matchup, Tornado was just slightly out of place in the starting box, and missed the thruster, losing out on that big initial score.

The robot used a simple but reliable design, which sported a single horizontally-mounted drive wheel that it used to spin both the lower and upper thrusters, and also to activate an elevator mechanism that carried it from one wing to the other. It was “like the Swiss army knife of robots,” thanks to this multifunction device, said Sangbae Kim, an associate professor of mechanical engineering and co-instructor of the course, who was dressed as the “Star Wars” wookie, Chewbacca.

The grand-prize winner, Tom Frejowski, also built a compact, powerful robot that concentrated on the spinning task, and scored 640 in the final round to take home the top trophy (a replica of the MIT dome). Frejowski’s robot, in order to ensure that it made a straight shot from the starting position to the thruster to line up just right to spin the heavy cylinder, used a single motor to drive both of its front wheels, which helped him earn consistent high scores. “That’s how he goes dead straight every time,” said co-instructor Amos Winter, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering, who was dressed as Darth Vader and shared the emcee duties with Kim.

During the tournament, which took place in the Johnson Ice Rink, all of the course teachers and assistants were dressed in various “Star Wars” costumes, and a packed audience of fellow students, families, and visitors of all ages cheered their encouragement with great enthusiasm. During a break, each of the teaching assistants was presented with a special memento: a beaver-cut twig from a beaver dam in Nova Scotia, symbolizing MIT’s beaver mascot, and nature’s original mechanical engineer.

Echoing the sentiments of many students in the class, sophomore James Li said of the class in a pre-taped video: “I had a bit of building experience, but I never had to design and build anything of this complexity. … It was a great experience.”


Topics: Special events and guest speakers, Classes and programs, School of Engineering, Contests and academic competitions, Robotics, Robots, Students, Undergraduate

Back to the top