The RoboCup North American Open was an opportunity for UBC’s team of soccer-playing robots to prepare before this week’s international Robocup competition.
The event, which took place from June 9 to 15 at the UBC Engineering Design Centre, consisted of indoor soccer games between teams of six autonomous robots. This year, UBC’s Thunderbots competed against teams from China and Germany, with China’s ZJUNLict team taking the winning title.
RoboCup gathers over 3,000 students, professors and researchers from all over the world each year, encouraging global co-operation and research.
The robots are slightly smaller than a real soccer ball, yet when they take the field, they are real crowd-pleasers. They coordinate passes and kick the ball with no human interference, other than a referee indicating the occasional time-out or corner-kick.
The robots are made of electromechanical hardware and software. “The major difference is the software; that’s basically the ‘coach’ of the team. Through it, each team implements their different strategies, different plays,” stated Bahador Moosavi, one of the organizers of the event.
“It’s really impressive to watch them design such a large system [of software],” stated Jordan Balanko, a public relations admin and co-leader of the Thunderbots’ mechanical group.
Thunderbots have been around since 2006, and competed for the first time at the Austria RoboCup in 2009, finishing 16th. The team reached an important milestone last year when they placed in the Top 10. They have great expectations for the upcoming finals.
Moosavi explained that the real focus of the competition was to prepare for the RoboCup finals in Mexico City this week June 18 to 24.
“The results are not as important as the performance of each team and what they learn from the friendly game,” stated Moosavi.
This year, the UBC design had a few upgrades.
“This year we’ve actually implemented a chipper, so we can chip the ball about half a metre in the air,” stated Balanko. “The benefit to the chipper is that as soon as the ball gets about robot-high over the field, it disappears off of vision to the adversary team. So far, it’s looking very promising.”
Members of the international teams praised the North American Open organizers for being welcoming and flexible.
But what seems to have impressed visitors the most is the UBC campus itself. “At our university, we’re distributed around the whole city. We don’t have a real campus like here,” stated Benjamin Reck, from the German team. “This is like a city.”
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