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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

UF robotics team goes through hoops to compete in basketball tournament

<p><span>Gator robotics working on technology at a robotics workshop.</span></p>

Gator robotics working on technology at a robotics workshop.

College-level basketball players will be competing nationally in April.

But some of them won’t be human.

UF’s engineering organization Gator Robotics is one of seven teams vying to compete at the first Land O’Lakes Bot Shot Robotics Competition April 4-8 for a $10,000 prize. The team has a chance to play basketball with famous retired baskeball player David Robinson in Minneapolis, Minnesota, said Kim Olson, the Land O’ Lakes Chief communications officer.

“Each team should bring their best game,” Olson said. “We are hoping for a great competition and for everyone to learn from the experience.”

The competition will take place during the same time of the men’s NCAA Final Four, the national college-level basketball collegiate tournament, in the same city, Olson said.

Gator Robotics will put their robot to the test in the virtual qualifying round on March 11 against six other universities, including Purdue University and South Dakota State University, Olson said. The top four teams will be awarded with a trip to Minneapolis and be eligible to compete in the final competition.

The contest will have seven teams compete at the event, Olson said.

Each team will construct a robot with the goal of hitting different shots such as a free-throw or three-pointer in a game of H-O-R-S-E, she said.

Each robot needs to make the same distance and technical shot into the basket as the others, with each shot getting progressively more difficult as the game goes on.

If a robot misses the shot, it gains a letter in the word “horse,” Olson said. If the word is spelled out, the robot loses the game.

The main criteria the teams must follow is that they can only use designated materials, such as motors and gears, and a basketball during the competition, Olson said. The robots need to measure less than 150 pounds and no larger than a meter high, wide or long.

Gator Robotics spent $2,000 on the project and has been working since the end of January to finish the robot, said Daniel Ribeiro, team member and 22-year-old UF aerospace engineering senior.

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Currently, the team has four motors that are set up to shoot a ball and are working to be able to do other types of trick shots, such as making a basket farther than halfway across the court to beat out the competition, Ribeiro said.

The team is still working on the robot but is projected to finish the machine by the end of Spring Break, Ribeiro said.

“The judges are saying we are on par with other schools so far,” Ribeiro said. “I feel confident we can make it into the final four as long as the robot is finished in time.”

Gator Robotics has a great chance of winning H-O-R-S-E and moving onto the final round, said Robert Herring, team captain and 19-year-old UF electrical engineer sophomore.

“We can win for sure,” said Herring. “And we can teach the other bots how we play G-A-T-O-R.”

Correction: This article was updated to reflect that Kim Olson is the Land O’Lakes chief communications officer was interviewed for the story. The Alligator previously reported differently.

Gator robotics working on technology at a robotics workshop.

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