Introduction to Competitive MINDSTORMS
For many years, the LEGO Company has been releasing products of top-notch quality and
ingenuity. But there is one aspect of the company’s products that sets them apart from many
others: the potential for more than one creation. You get more than one function, ability, or
purpose in the same LEGO set. While many other toys and games allow very finite possibilities,
or even worse, only one function, LEGO products have almost always had just one constraint:
your imagination.
Despite this trademark ingenuity in all their products, one LEGO set has stood out in the crowd of
official releases: the MINDSTORMS Robotics Invention System (RIS). The current version of the
set (2.0) boasts 718 parts; a thick idea book known as the
Constructopedia; and fascinating
robotics-related parts such as an IR transmitter, a microcomputer called the RCX (Robotics
Command System), and so much more. But this set is far from an ordinary LEGO toy. Indeed,
calling it a
toy is debatable. With the almost perfect balance of the amount and types of pieces in
the set, the number of crazy contraptions you can invent is mind-boggling. MINDSTORMS fans are
always on the lookout for new and amazing projects they can build.
When some people were watching shows like Robotica, Battlebots, and Robot Wars, they
wondered, “Can I build a robot like that, too?” The book
Robot Riots—a guide to fighting robots—
talks a bit about the cost: “…building your own bot will cost you anywhere from $750 (a
conservative estimate for a very rudimentary rookie robot) to upwards of $40,000 (for a souped-up
super heavyweight).” The cost of a good fighting robot is
$40,000? Isn’t there a better way to join
in on the fun?
Others watching those robot competitions must have been wondering something similar: “Can I
build a
LEGO MINDSTORMS robot like that?” Yes, building fighting MINDSTORMS robots is a
completely achievable goal. And it’s a lot cheaper, too, considering the cost of an RIS set is $200.
With a price tag like that, along with its great potential and ease of use, the RIS makes building
fighting robots something that not just MINDSTORMS or robotics fans can do, but something

can do.
This idea of fighting LEGO MINDSTORMS robots stirred much interest and eventually took on the
form of LEGO MINDSTORMS robotic sumo. The game of robotic sumo is an engaging section of
the many classes of functionality of the RIS. With a unique blend of different tasks that must be
accomplished, it is a very entertaining undertaking. That is why so many different LEGO user
groups have organized events in which MINDSTORMS fans meet and bring their own robots to
“fight.” In reality, these robots do not fight. Robotic sumo is about pushing and strategy, not violent
fighting actions. In the game, the robotic opponents are placed within a large ring encircled by a
thick line. The goal for the robot is to be the first to push its opponent outside the limits of the line.

What This Book Covers
This book is divided into five parts. Part One is dedicated to describing the concept of robotic
sumo and how to conceive a robot—that is, sumo-bot—for the competition. The next three parts of
the book contain seven projects, which are intended to teach you the three different methods of
approaching robotic sumo. The small-and-fast strategy is covered in Part Two, the M-class
(medium class) strategy is discussed in Part Three, and the “big-bot” approach (big-sumo
strategy) is detailed in Part Four. In each of these parts are building instructions for the sumo-bots
and their programs. You’ll also find detailed discussions of LEGO pieces, building methodology,
and the implemented strategies and programming techniques.
The book concludes with Part Five, which discusses participating in a robotic sumo event,
organizing your own event, and more. After all, to play robotic sumo, you need more than one bot!
You could build more than one sumo-bot yourself and stage them against each other, but part of
the purpose of robotic sumo is to test your strategies, skills, and ideas against someone else’s.
Summed up, robotic sumo is about conceiving (and then testing!) ideas and solutions to make
your little fighter better than the opposing one.
Robotic sumo is not
all about ideas and the like, though. It’s about fun, too. That’s exactly what the
LEGO Company intended. The very name LEGO is a Danish contraction for the phrase “play well.”
You must remember that, when attending a robotic sumo event, having fun
is the ultimate goal.
The goal of this book is to help you to play well. It teaches you how to make, program, optimize,
strategize, and plan LEGO MINDSTORMS sumo-bots,
and more. Whether you win or lose in an
event, being part of the action is what matters most of all. But you should try your best to make
your sumo-bot a champion. You never know—your very own sumo-bot just might earn you first
LEGO(R) and MINDSTORMS(R) are registered trademarks of the LEGO
Group, which does not sponsor, endorse, or authorize this site. The
Competitive MINDSTORMS web site is unofficial and is used to
promote the book Competitive MINDSTORMS Copyright (C) 2004
David J. Perdue.   

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