R – your idea for a good AI project for a group of undergraduates


There are two courses: "AI" and "AI in Games" both 15 students for 15 weeks.
I want to keep them motivated and creative.
I know I want some kind of competition (obvious for the latter course).
Maybe something like Marathon Match or ICFP.
I will need good visualization, so it would be great if it already exist.
One idea was to write AI for "Battle of Wesnoth", but I guess it's to diverse / boring.
Another game of Go. But that's too hard.

What are your ideas?

It will be work in groups of 3 students for 15 weeks.

Best Solution

MIT hosts a competition called BattleCode.

BattleCode, is a real-time strategy game. Two teams of robots roam the screen managing resources and attacking each other with different kinds of weapons. However, in BattleCode each robot functions autonomously; under the hood it runs a Java virtual machine loaded up with its team's player program. Robots in the game communicate by radio and must work together to accomplish their goals.

Teams of one to four students enter are given the BattleCode software and a specification of the game rules. Each team develops a player program, which will be run by each of their robots during BattleCode matches. Contestants often use artificial intelligence, pathfinding, distributed algorithms, and/or network communications to write their player. At the final tournaments, the autonomous players are pitted against each other in a dramatic head-to-head tournament. The final rounds of the MIT tournament are played out in front of a live audience, with the top teams receiving cash prizes.

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(source: mit.edu)

BattleCode in action.

You essentially are given the BattleCode software from MIT and your students can program the AI for their robots. They have a test suite so you can practice running your autonomous bots on your own in a practice arena. Towards the end of the semester they can enter in MIT's Open Tournament, where they compete with their software AI robots against schools all over the nation. Up to $40,000 is given away in cash and prizes as well as bragging rights for winning.

If you are looking to teach them about AI, Pathfinding, Swarm Intelligence, etc. I can't think of a more fun way.

May the best AI bot win!

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