The grade 5 students at Glendale School loved puzzles and games theory. They had heard about the Prisoners' Dilemma:
Two bank robbers are captured and placed into separate interview rooms. Each robber is asked to testify against the other even though the robbers agreed to stay silent if captured. If both stay silent they will be released after serving 6 months for lack of evidence. If one robber testifies and the other stays silent, the one who testifies gets out free and the one who stayed silent is sentenced to 10 years. If both testify they both get 5 years.
Their task was to create a robotic program that would play ten rounds of this game and defeat another robot or a human. They assigned a trust level and, depending on the actions of the opponent, raised or lowered the trust and used that to make a prediction of what the opponent would do next. For more information and the winning program, visit the Prisoners' Dilemma website.
This was an unusual project because there were so few moving parts to the robot. We had only lights and touch sensors attached to the robots. It was also unusual because, while in most robotic classes the students are encouraged to collaborate, in this class there was a fierce protectiveness of the strategy and programs. Even so, during the last class when all the programs were made public, the students were astonished to see how similar their programs were.