Tech hosts artificial intelligence competition

HOUGHTON – An artificial intelligence competition held Saturday at Michigan Technological University put an impressive display of human intelligence on display.

Tech’s Husky Game Development Enterprise and Women in Computing Science student organizations hosted more than 50 teams of (mostly) programmers in an all-day (9 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.) AI, or artificial intelligence, event called BonzAI Brawl.

“This I would have to say is one of our best running BonzAI Brawls in participation, in how smoothly everything has gone, on the hardware/software side,” said Ryan George, a third-year Computer Science/Computer Network and System Administration major, and Husky Game Development president. “It seems like everybody’s been pleased overall.”

The competition, which also included teams from Northern Michigan University, pitted teams of one to three students (mostly CS/CNSA students, but open to all majors) in a challenge to spend eight hours programming their AIs to respond to the challenges set forth in a game developed throughout the year by organizers.

The teams were given a very limited amount of information in advance of the competition, with the game design and mechanics announced at orientation the morning of the competition.

After eight hours of programming, and consuming an array of free food and drink provided by sponsors, teams faced off in the “brawl” to determine which team’s AI is most capable on the farm-themed game. With the programming done, teams could only watch the tournament as their programs were put to the test against opposing teams.

The challenge was to find the most efficient way to move ducks from point A to point B, figuring out how to locate the ducks, how to handle the terrain on the map and how many farmhands they had available, among a variety of other decisions.

“Artificial intelligence is basically a series of decision making, is what it boils down to, and the best strategies and best implementations of those strategies will usually come out on top,” George said.

The “0th-place” team (named such because it’s a programming competition) was “Team Hawkward,” a Tech team with members Christopher Wallis, Eric Zimmer and Corey Bilski. First place was then Tech’s “Lazor Bears,” comprised of Nicholas Lanam and Kaylee Edwards. Second place was then NMU’s “NeptunAI.”

One of the sponsors’ participating teams, Lasalle Technology Group, would have continued to the semifinals, but they “graciously bowed out in favor of allowing student teams to take the top places,” George said.

For more information on the BonzAI Brawl, visit bonzai.cs.mtu.edu.