Sunday, December 21, 2014
Last updated: 2 days ago

UBC teams take top two non-MIT spots in competition

It’s not BattleBots, it’s BattleCode: two UBC teams have taken the top two non-MIT spots in MIT’s annual artificial intelligence coding competition.

The two teams, “Bad Meme” and “Keep it Simple,” took first and second place out of three honourable mention spots, beating teams from over 400 institutions including Harvard, Stanford and the University of Waterloo. MIT teams took the top eight spots. The tournament ran from January to March.

BattleCode is a real-time strategy (RTS) competition where teams write codes to execute inside the bots, or units. It is much like the online game Starcraft, except that each team has six autonomous units that can be programmed to build more units to give other units energy and fuel, mine resources and engage in battle with opposing teams.

“It was a great experience, I learned quite a bit, we had a lot of fun doing those late-night coding sessions,” said Shaun Evans of team “Bad Meme.” Evans competed with Dan Ballard and Robert Hausch, who are all UBC computer science students. The three friends won a team prize of $250.

“All the bots were pretty similar in the end,” Ballard said. “There’s only two strategies: either try to win by mining or try to win by killing the enemy, and killing the enemy seemed to work better. So it just came down to which bots had that oomph and finesse, and [were] slightly more efficient.”

Andrew Tjia, Patrick Nguyen, Martin Lau and Byron Knoll are on team “Keep it Simple” and took home a team prize of $150.

“Unlike honed teams from MIT, we were really experimenting around with what we knew and what we could do,” Tjia said. “Most people think that programming robots involve fancy artificial intelligence and stuff, but a lot can be accomplished just by simple goals, and thinking through things one step at a time.”

Both teams cited late hours, time management and motivation as obstacles faced while working on the project. In the end, they were pleased with how UBC fared. “We actually won money for coding,” Ballard said. “It’s not super common that people win money for programming fun projects like that.”