Robot Expo Brings Physics to Life


Media Contact: Margaret Lutz |

Demonstrating the practical application of physics, the California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) physics department will host its second annual Robot Expo and competition on Friday, December 10 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Expanding the expo this year to allow local community members to compete in the contest, this free annual event invites physics enthusiasts and the public to put logic and reason to the test.

Developed by adjunct professor of applied physics Dr. David Schaafsma, the expo features original robots constructed by teams of students in Schaafsma's physics 402 class, who are tasked with the assignment of designing and programming a micro-system. At the expo, a panel of judges comprised of professors, industry experts, and community representatives evaluate each robot on its ability to function as designed, as well as each respective team's ability to communicate, in layman terms, the technical processes the robot undergoes to perform those tasks.

"It's a very hands-on class and you're responsible for everything you produce," said senior computer science major, Brodie Kurczynski, who will be competing in the December 10 event. "It'll be a great to showcase our robot at the expo and help expose the community and other students to the exciting field of physics."

Kurczynski and his teammate Francisco Gordin are creating an autonomous navigation robot using the shell of a radio control car. The pair is constructing and encoding a software system that will enable their robot to locate its own geographical position, determine the direction it needs to travel, and detect and avoid obstructing objects in its path while completing a pre-mapped course at a speed greater than a car controlled by remote.

Other teams in the physics class are also developing prototypes that include sophisticated features such as voice-controlled robots and a robot storm of mini-bots that will communicate and interact with each other.

"For every minute of actual building that goes into the robot, we've spent about 30 minutes theorizing that one step," shared Gordin. "This is practical, hands-on learning."

Easily students will spend a couple hundred hours from start to finish developing and building just one of these robots, explained Schaafsma. Among those familiar with the extensive time and effort that goes into creating these technical machines is recent CSUSM alumna Liz Robertson, who participated in the inaugural Robot Expo last fall.

"Of all of the classes I took in college, this course was the most practical and empowering for me. I gained so much knowledge in the process of creating a robot. It put theory into motion and placed a tremendous amount of career possibilities within my reach," she said.

"This course offers a lot of ‘a-ha moments' for students," Schaafsma added. "It's more than robotics; it's about understanding the hardware of an embedded micro-system, what it does, and how the software code interacts within that system."

To register an original robot in the second annual Robot Expo and competition, email Dr. Charles De Leone at The expo is free and open to the public.

What: Second Annual Robot Expo & Competition hosted by the CSUSM Physics Department

When: Friday, December 10, 2010 - 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Where: CSUSM - McMahan House, located at 333 S. Twin Oaks Valley Road, San Marcos

Parking: On-campus parking fees range from $3 to $9 depending upon length of stay

About California State University San Marcos
California State University San Marcos combines the ambiance of a mid-sized, personal, modern campus with the unequaled value of the California State University. Since its founding in 1989, the campus has distinguished itself. Students benefit from the latest facilities and equipment, a superb faculty that enjoys teaching, and a rigorous academic program that prepares students for a successful life in and out of the workplace. A recent survey reported that our annual spending in the region was $161 million, generating a total impact of $307 million on the regional economy. 85 percent of CSUSM's alumni stay in the region. CSU San Marcos is located on a 304-acre hillside overlooking the city of San Marcos. It is 15 miles east of the ocean; just 30 miles north of downtown San Diego.