15 Jul 2008

UK Teams Preparing for Robot World Cup in China

Earlier RoboCup competition Photo: Chris Valentine

Earlier RoboCup competition Photo: Chris Valentine

In the run-up to the Olympic Games, ten teams of youngsters, called “the strongest UK teams ever” are in China to representing the UK in the junior league at RoboCup 2008, to be held in the Suzhou International Expo Centre on 15-19 July.

Dr Ashley Green, RoboFesta Research Fellow at The Open University and one of the organisers of RoboCup 2008, notes that: “We are fielding our strongest UK teams ever. This year’s teams are having far more bureaucratic hurdles to overcome to get to the world finals than in previous years, but we’re all eagerly looking forward to spending a week in the classical garden city of Suzhou, which has been a centre of China’s silk industry for more than a millennium. Our World Champion Secondary Robot Dance team from Suffolk will be defending their title (earned at RoboCup 2007 in Atlanta last year) against stiff opposition from the best Chinese, German and Japanese teams. In their RoboDance performance St. Trinians, the team members dance in formation with a life-size humanoid robot that they’ve constructed and programmed themselves.”

This year’s competition involves approximately 200 teams from 20 countries.

RoboCupJunior offers several challenges, each emphasising cooperative and competitive aspects. For children, the junior initiative provides an exciting introduction to the field of robotics, a new way to develop technical abilities through hands-on experience with electronics, hardware and software, and a highly motivating opportunity to learn about teamwork while sharing technology with friends. RoboCupJunior provides a unique opportunity for participants with a variety of interests and strengths to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.

This year’s ten UK teams were selected on the basis of their performance in regional tournaments and national finals earlier this year. The Dance final was held at Cranfield University in February, and the rescue and soccer finals were held at Calday Grange Grammar School, Wirral in March.

The teams will participate in three competitions – RoboDance, RoboRescue and RoboSoccer:
• In RoboDance, for children aged seven and over, one or more robots perform to music in a display emphasising creativity of costume and movement. Optionally, the contestants may dance along with their robots, and may even compose and perform the music.
• In RoboRescue, for nine to eighteen year olds, robots race to rescue victims in a simulated disaster.
• In RoboSoccer, for 11 to 18 year olds, autonomous robots jostle for control of the infrared-emitting ball, on a greyscale pitch.

For each competition, the team must build and program one or more robots appropriate for the task.

The Open University Robotics Outreach Group is a multidisciplinary research group that develops widening participation and educational outreach activities and administers RoboCupJunior and other robotics competitions in the UK.

RoboCup is an international scientific endeavour whose goal is to produce a humanoid robot football team capable of beating the human World Cup champions by the year 2050. RoboCupJunior is designed to introduce RoboCup to primary and secondary school children. The focus in the junior league is on education. RoboCupJunior intends to inspire today’s children to become tomorrow’s engineers – perhaps the same engineers who’ll create the 2050 humanoid robot football champions!

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