Robot racing sparks enthusiasm in US students

Undergraduate seniors in Prof. Marko Popovic's lab describe their quadruped robot "Hydro Dog" at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester

A hefty robot designed for search-and-rescue and a spindly four-legged rival that bounds along on hydraulic limbs will face off next month along with more than a dozen other entrants in the debut Vecna Robot Sprint Challenge outside Boston.

The robots, designed by student teams at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, will be racing a lineup ranging from commercial available machines weighing hundreds of pounds to remote control cars jerry-rigged by teenage hobbyists.

The competition, sponsored by robotics company Vecna Technologies, is part of a growing breed of lower-key robot races sprouting up across the United States that experts contend could play a powerful role in attracting young students into the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

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